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Have a Safe Winter with Your Pet

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Have a Safe Winter with Your Pet

Many of our furry friends come with built-in coats and gloves, but that doesn't mean that they don't need protection from the winter elements. It is important to consider your pet's natural tolerance for the cold and own medical history. This will help you decide what precautions and alterations you need to make to keep your pet healthy and warm until spring.

Consider Your Pet's Natural Tolerance

Some pets are built to tolerate the cold. According to petMD, there are six factors to consider when determining if your dog's ability to withstand the chilly winter weather: coat type (thick coats are warmer than thin), coat color (dark hair absorbs more light and keeps pups warmer longer), size (small dogs lose heat faster), weight (extra pounds mean more insulation), conditioning (dogs who are used to the cold fare better than those who aren't), and age and health (just like people, the youngest, oldest, and sickest  dogs need more precautions in extreme temperatures).

As you might expect, breeds whose genetic history is rooted in cold-weather geographical locations tend to be the best suited for winter weather. The Alaskan Malamute, Great Pyrenees, and Siberian Husky are all among the breeds whose natural winter defenses are the highest. By contrast, Greyhounds, Dalmatians, Whippets, and Chihuahuas are among the breeds who need a little extra attention when the temperatures plunge.

Change Routines

It is important to consider how winter weather might change your pet's routines and adjust accordingly. Outdoor cats might find some dangerous places to hide from the warmth. If you (or a neighbor) have outdoor cats, be sure to bang on the hood of your car before starting it, making sure that any furry friends who might be curled in their for warmth have time to safely scatter.

Indoor pets who are used to going outside might need adaptations for their routines. Many de-icers contain sodium chloride and even salt-based mixes carry toxic risks. Pets who lick their paws and ingest these substances are at risk for serious side effects like lethargy, comas, seizures, and even death. Make sure to wipe off the feet of any pets who have gone for a walk on treated sidewalks or roads. Cats who tend to wander might best be kept inside until the roads are clear.

Don't forget to think about the changes to the outside conditions for your pets as well. If the temperatures are below freezing, use a safely heated bowl or change water frequently. Make sure that pet doors aren't blocked by ice or snow. Put warm bedding out for pets inside and out, and make sure that any outdoor pets have a shelter that protects them from the wind and snow.

Don't Forget Inside Pets

We tend to think the most about cats and dogs who either spend most of their time outside or move between the house and the outdoors. It's important to remember that winter weather can affect our inside pets as well. Make sure that fish tanks maintain their necessary temperature. If you live in an area that's prone to blackouts when the ice piles up, consider an emergency plan for a tropical aquarium that needs a constant temperature. Pet Helpful suggests building a blackout emergency kit with mylar blankets and disposable heat pads.

Reptiles and birds need some careful cold-weather consideration, too. These pets can become sluggish with decreased appetites when they get too cold, so make sure to provide heat and offer lots of food and water. Veterinarian Dr. Laurie Hess also recommends making a plan for exotic pets during blackouts so that they do not get overly stressed in the dark.

Have a Safe and Healthy Winter

With a little preparation and planning, you can ensure that both you and your pet have a safe and healthy winter!

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