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Cold Weather: 7 Winter Tips for Dogs, Cats, & Horses

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Colder temperatures are here, which means it’s time to review how to protect our pets in the winter season. Here are 7 important tips for a safe and healthy winter for dogs, cats, & horses.

1.   Shelter

Dogs and cats will do best living indoors. However, the dry heat in your home contrasted with the cold outdoor temperatures can lead to dry itchy skin. Keep your home humidified to help guard against dry, flaky, and itchy skin.

If your pet must live outdoors, he must have access to a dry, draft-free shelter that is large enough for him to comfortably sit and lie down, but small enough to hold in his body heat. The shelter should also have a wind- and waterproof doorway and a raised floor covered in straw or cedar shavings.

Horses must have access to a barn or a 3-sided run-in so they can find shelter from the wind and cold.

2.   Water

Dogs, cats, and horses all need access to plenty of water throughout the winter to remain hydrated. Staying hydrated will also help ward off that dry, itchy skin so common in winter. Take special care to provide your pets with continuous access to non-frozen water. For horses in particular, you may consider using heated buckets or water heaters to be sure the water does not freeze.

3.   Warm Coats

Never shave your dog down to the skin in winter. For long-haired breeds, simply trim her coat to avoid clinging ice balls and salt crystals. For short-haired breeds, provide a coat or sweater for added warmth and protection.

If you’ve body-clipped your horses, you will need to keep them blanketed throughout the winter. Regardless, if there is rain or snow, use blankets to help keep your horses warm and dry.

4.   Wipe Paws & Stomach

After returning indoors with your pet, be sure to dry his paws, legs, and stomach as soon as possible. Remember to dry between his toes. During the worst of winter, when salt and de-icing chemicals cover most surfaces, take the time to wash and dry your pet’s paws and stomach to remove any chemicals so they do not dry out the skin - or worse, are licked off and ingested by your pet. (Consider massaging petroleum jelly onto paw pads before a walk to help protect them from the salt and chemicals, or, for extra protection, consider buying some type of shoes or boots for your dog.)

5.   Watch for Spills

Like coolant, antifreeze is a deadly poison. Unfortunately, it has a sweet taste that can attract animals (and children!). Be vigilant about thoroughly cleaning up any spills and keeping antifreeze out of reach of both pets and children. Consider using an antifreeze made with propylene glycol rather than ethylene glycol, as it is less toxic.

6.   Car = Refrigerator

You know better than to leave your pet unattended in a car in the summer. The same applies to winter. Cars can act like refrigerators, holding in cold air, and threatening the life of your pet. Leave your pet at home. Do not leave your pet in a cold car.

7.   Keep Them on a Leash

Avoid letting your pet off her leash during winter. Snow can disguise familiar scents and hinder your pet from finding her way home. More pets become lost during winter than any other season.

A little bit of common sense will go a long way when caring for your pet this winter. Remember this simple rule of thumb: If it’s too cold for you, it’s probably too cold for your pets. Care for them accordingly, and you’ll both stay healthy and happy this winter.


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