Chilly Pet Safety

While your pet may frolic playfully in the first winter snow and beg for a polar bear swim in the early spring water, cold weather is no laughing matter for most pets.  Even your fur-covered friends are vulnerable to cold temperatures.

Many pet parents are not aware that dogs and cats are just as susceptible to frostbite and hypothermia as humans. SPCA International recommends that you always keep your animals indoors during extreme cold weather and only let them outside for short periods of supervised time. Cats and short-hair dogs are especially at risk during harsh cold periods. If you live in a decidedly cold climate for months out of the year, we recommend every dog parent purchase paw boots to protect your dog’s feet from sharp ice and frostbite and to prevent road salt from creeping into open cuts during long walks.

The strong recommendation of SPCA International is for all pets to be kept inside during the winter. If you choose to leave your dog outside, however, it is imperative that you provide adequate shelter and frequently check their water to be sure it hasn’t frozen. All outdoor shelters should include quality insulation and should not have an open doorway that lets in the cold air. We highly recommend that you consult a local shelter or pet supply store for additional tips on outfitting a winterized doghouse in your backyard.

SPCA International also strongly encourages cat parents to keep cats indoors year-round, especially during winter months. Cats are too small to go outside during the winter for more than a few minutes. If you have an outdoor cat, please set up a little box and bring it inside for the winter.

A couple of additional tips to help you care for your pet in the chilly winter months:

  • If you tend to turn down the heat in your home while you are away during the day or cozy in bed at night, provide your pet a cozy place to cuddle up on thick blankets or in a comfortable pet bed;
  • Although there will be days when it feels like spring has arrived, keep in mind that temperatures can still drop rapidly during fall and spring, especially in northern states and countries.  Pet owners should still be mindful not to leave their animals out for extended periods in transitional seasons;
  • Most pet parents know not to leave a dog or cat in a car during hot weather. The same rules apply in the cold months. Your car is not a safe place to keep your animals while you run errands in winter. Not only will your pets face rapidly decreasing temperatures inside the car, but they also are in danger of being stolen or set loose should a car thief come along.

The shelter staff at Loving Companions Animal Rescue in North Pole, Alaska rescued a cat that had been found frozen to the ground!  Thanks to this northern shelter’s love and hard work Popsicle was saved, but your cat might not be so lucky.

This SPCA International article is intended to help further your understanding of your animal's needs. We understand yourunique bond with your pet and it is our pleasure to help you look after its welfare. Thanks to your continued support, SPCA International is able to provide you and countless others with important news regarding the safety of your pets. Thank you again for your donations – every little bit helps!

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