Cold Weather Planning for Pets

Nicole Bode, CVT
Veterinary Information Specialist
Pet Poison Helpline

Some of us love the colder weather, some of us dread it from the first snowfall to the last snowmelt each spring. All of us love our pets and want them prepared to be their healthiest and most comfortable when the seasons finally change. Here are some easy tips to help you and your pet survive the upcoming winter.

First and foremost, don’t let your pet have an identity crisis. Many pets get lost because the snow and ice hides the normal scents and markers they use to navigate. Keep a collar with a tag with your current info on your pet at all times. Also, make sure your pet is microchipped and that the information linked to your chip is correct.

Be aware of the following pet toxic products that become more prevalent due to increased use in the winter: (1) rodent bait (2) chocolate (2) xylitol sugar substitute baking (3) cold and flu medications (4) raisins in seasonal baked goods (5) house guests’ medications in purse/luggage.  More food and visiting family always lead to increased toxicology call for PPH during this time of year; safeguard your home and pets please!

Keep your pet warm. There are many ways to do this; the easiest way is to keep your pet indoors during cold spells. Prevent frost bite by limiting outdoor time, protect paws with paw wax or boots, wipe ice melts off of paws and hair after walking your pet, and provide pet with adequate warm, dry shelter, food and non-frozen water if they live outdoors.  If you see your pet shivering take measures to warm them and follow up with a vet right away if their body temperature is low and is not corrected with simple warming measures [bringing indoors/ wrapping in blankets warm from the dryer]. Pets get cold just like people do, so just like during the summer, don’t leave them in the car when the weather is cold.

Keep your pet healthy. Colder weather certainly can lead to less exercise for humans and for pets. Make sure your pet isn’t packing on the pounds by adjusting feeding as needed based on any changes to their exercise routine. Don’t feed your pet table scraps during those big family meals.  Not only can some ingredients be toxic, but ingredients including nuts and fatty meats/bones can lead to weight gain and issues such a pancreatitis.

Older pets can have issues with arthritis when it’s colder as well. Make sure you’ve consulted with your vet about any concerns you may have about your pet’s mobility and get them started on necessary treatments before the cold weather really hits. Provide them a nice, soft warm bed and let your vet know of any concerns right away.

Follow these simple tips and you and your pets will fly right through the winter season!