Autumn is in full swing and many of us are getting the winter coats and boots out of the attic and winterizing our homes in preparation for the upcoming frigid temperatures. Between raking leaves and apple picking it can be a busy time, but we cannot forget to make plans to keep our pets safe during the chilly winter months. Many organizations, such as the ASPCA, the National Humane Society, and even WebMD have great tips to help keep our pets safe in the winter. Here is a compilation of the best tips out there:

Keep Pets Warm
Many people shave their dogs to help with the shedding and tangling associated with longhaired breeds. However, shaving should be avoided in the winter because it removes the animal’s natural source of warmth. In fact, shorthaired breeds, young pets, senior pets, or those with health problems may even need a light sweater to help keep them warm in colder climates. Pets with a tendency to “shiver” also may benefit from winter wear. Never leave pets in a sweater when you are not there: A pet struggling to get out of a sweater can be at risk for strangling or suffocation. Also take care during bath days to make sure your pet is totally dry before letting him outside. And remember, regular brushing can help restore the naturally insulating oils to your pet’s coat.

Give a Warm Bed
Make sure your pet has a comfortable, draft-free bed with extra bedding to keep him warm. In super cold climates, special heating pads or hot water bottles can be used to help give pets a warm place to snuggle. Make sure not to use a heat lamp, space heater, or other non-pet-approved device because this can create a fire hazard or burn your pet. Ask your vet or local pet store to find safe pet heating pads and read all the instructions thoroughly before use.

Keep Pets Indoors
Cats and dogs should be kept indoors during the winter months. Obviously, some time is needed outside for “business,” but pets should not be left outside alone for extended periods of time because they can suffer hypothermia, frostbite, or death. Outdoor cats can be especially vulnerable because they often seek warmth in dangerous places, such as under the hoods of parked cars, and can be killed when the car is started. If you have cats in your neighborhood, it is a good idea to give the hood of your car a loud “knock” before starting.

Keep Up with Exercise
Too much couch surfing can make Fido flabby, so to avoid weight gain, muscle loss, and allowing joints to stiffen make sure you and your pet get enough exercise. Quick romps in the snow, a walk around the block, or a visit to the dog park are all good ways to keep exercise going during the winter. Ask your vet about the possible need to change your pet’s diet to accommodate winter dietary needs.

Keep Pets on Leash
More pets are lost in the winter than any other time of year. Even though the beauty of falling snow can drum up excitement in your pup, resist the urge to let them off the leash because dogs can lose their scent in snow and ice. Off-leash dogs are also in danger of falling into frozen bodies of water, especially when visiting areas unfamiliar to them. Not only can this be deadly for your pet, but an attempted rescue can put you in danger too. And remember to keep ID tags up-to-date and on your pet at all times, so you can find them if they do get lost.

Towel Pets Off
Pets’ paws can hold a lot of yuck, so make sure you are wiping their paws when they come in from outside. This keeps them cleaner and warmer, and it also prevents them from ingesting the chemicals from ice melt, salt, and anti-freeze products often deposited on streets and walkways during the winter when they clean their paws.

Don’t Leave Pets in Cars
Everyone knows you should not leave a pet in a hot car, but cold cars can also be dangerous. A closed car traps the cold air in just like a refrigerator and pets can freeze to death in a few minutes. So, if you have a lengthy trip to the grocery store in mind, it is best to leave your pets at home where they will be safe and warm. And speaking of cars, remember that the anti-freeze products you use for your car are extremely toxic and the sweet smell can be attractive to your pet, so quickly clean up all spills so your pet does not get poisoned from lapping up a spill.

Keep Water Flowing
Dry, cold air can make pets thirsty, so always make sure there is plenty of fresh, clean water available for your pet. If you have water outside for your pet, make sure this water does not freeze over because pets can dehydrate easily. Heated water bowls are available to help keep water from freezing.

By Charlene Sloan