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Protecting your pets from the cold

Although March is about to begin, for much of the country, winter is showing no signs of ending. Yet another polar vortex has swooped down, sending parts of the Midwest and Northeast into a deep freeze, and yet more snow and ice is forecast for many areas. While you and your family do your best to keep warm, don’t forget your pets. While it’s a common misconception that their fur is all they need to stay warm, a good rule of thumb to keep in mind is that if it’s uncomfortably cold for you, it is for them too!

Two dogs romp in the snow
Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Cats and dogs are at risk for frostbite and hypothermia in frigid weather just like humans. First and foremost, during cold and snowy weather, bring your pets inside! If your dog has a heated dog house, check on him regularly, and make sure his water and food dishes haven’t frozen. If the weather gets severe, bring him indoors. Leaving your pets outside in bitter cold temps is cruel and could even get you in trouble.

Would you go for a walk on a cold snowy day barefoot? Of course not but many people don’t give a second thought to letting their dogs do just that. Paws are as sensitive to cold temps as your hands and feet and can get frostbitten. Another concern is the ice melting substances that many sidewalks and streets are covered with. They can irritate and even burn your dog’s paws. Invest in a set of protective booties to protect them. If you own a short haired dog, a doggie jacket or sweater is a good idea as well. Sweaters are also recommended for Sphinx cats, which do not have fur and are particularly sensitive to the cold.

Cats need protection from the cold too. Provide a bed with raised sides to block drafts, and if your cat is older or has joint issues, a heated cushion would be very appreciated. You should also provide this for young kittens as they cannot regulate their own body heat until they get older.

Finally, while your pets may enjoy curling up by the fire as much as you do, it’s critical to keep a close eye on them. Cats are naturally curious and may not realize the danger of those dancing flames until it’s too late, and both cats and dogs run the risk of burns if they curl up to close to the warmth they are craving.

Take some time to make sure your pets are warm and safe and remember, spring will eventually get here!

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