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Pet Care In Winter

Before you click out of this post because you think you’ve already read all I have to say about cold weather, let me assure you that this is new information! Believe me, I’m more than ready to move on. In fact, I’ll be writing about the hot Spring housing market in coming weeks. But, the groundhog said we’re in for six more weeks of this dreadful winter and after witnessing a neighbor’s pet shivering in today’s frosty, snowy weather, I feel compelled to write/vent/pray that you’ll read this post and then act on it. Of course, I think it is important to prepare and protect our homes from winter’s wrath, but our pets are living creatures and should be afforded the same care as treasured family members.

First and foremost, please don’t leave your pets outside in the cold for long periods of time. Yes, yes… we’ve all heard the argument that pets are protected with their “winter coats,” but wind chill makes days colder than actual temperature readings. Pets with short or coarse-haired coats will feel the cold every bit as much as you do. They actually need winter clothing if they’re to be outdoors for any appreciable length of time. Even breeds that have been acclimated to cold weather need to be regularly groomed to maintain the insulating properties of their coats. Long haired animals need to have excess hair trimmed from around their toes and foot pads, as well. It may seem counter-intuitive, but extra fur can trap ice, dirt, snow and debris and cause serious damage to your sweet pet’s paws.

If your pet is truly adapted to wintertime outdoor living, it is still important to make sure they have shelter. Dog houses should be a proper size. Oversized houses create drafts and will not protect your pet from the extreme cold. In addition, houses should be insulated with sloped roofs that decrease the likelihood of snow and ice build-up. Make sure your pet has proper bedding that is always clean and dry. Consider purchasing (or installing) a pet shelter with a door. This will help keep rain and blowing snow from invading their sanctuary. And please, please… bring ALL pets (even your Huskies and Chows indoors when it is exceptionally cold for long stretches.

If your pet does spend much of winter outdoors (or is a working animal), you’ll need to feed them extra calories during the cold weather months. It actually takes more energy for animals to regulate their body temperature when it is cold. Conversely, if your pet is an indoor friend, make sure you’re NOT overfeeding. Again, like their human counterparts, indoor pets tend to get less exercise in the winter and are prone to weight gain. Do be sure that all animals (whether indoor or outdoor pets) have ready access to clean, fresh and unfrozen water. Heated bowls can be purchased for use outdoors.

Some of the things I advised to protect our homes and properties can be dangerous to our pets. Be diligent about not letting pets lick rock salt or deicer from driveways and sidewalks. Just walking on rock salt can irritate and burn their foot pads.

Please wipe your pet’s paws well when coming home from a walk or outdoor play. Antifreeze can collect on driveways and, although it smells and tastes good to dogs, it is lethal! Be very careful about checking for leaking antifreeze, both in your driveway and in your garage. Store bottles of antifreeze on high shelves or locked cabinets.
Okay… end of lecture. Please know it is delivered with love for my fur babies, your pets and your families! And I promise… my next post will be a preview of some warm weather tips!

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