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Keeping your pets safe in cold weather

As winter approaches and the temperatures drop, it’s time to think about how to look after your pets in cold weather. While most aspects of pet care remain the same, no matter the temperature, there are some extra things you need to do and some that you should avoid.

New pet owners who haven’t yet had a winter with their pets should particularly take note, but even experienced pet parents might be able to use a refresher. Follow these cold weather tips for pet owners to help keep your animals safe, happy and healthy.

Cold weather tips for pet owners

While there’s no need to stress about winter with pets, you should take measures to keep your furry friends safe and comfortable.

Limit outdoor time

If your dog or cat routinely spends a lot of time outdoors, you’ll need to limit this in cold weather. Some pets are great at self-regulating and come inside when they get too chilly, while others happily spend hours outdoors even when they get dangerously cold. Since you can’t be sure which category your pet falls into, it’s up to you as the person in charge to take control of their outdoor activity.

It’s still fine to take dogs on walks — especially fast-paced ones that keep the temperature up — just don’t overdo it, especially on exceptionally cold days.

Protect your pet’s paws

Pets paws can get dry and cracked from the cold, so many animals need a little extra protection. One option is to buy a paw balm that’s designed to protect paws in frigid conditions. Most of these balms also offer some relief for paws that are already suffering.

You could also consider buying dog boots for your canine companion to wear on walks. Not only do they protect against the cold and harmful substances on the ground, they also provide extra traction in icy conditions.

Consider a coat or sweater

If your pet is extremely sensitive to the cold or has a fine, short coat, they may benefit from a coat or sweater, either indoors or outdoors. Coats are great for dogs to wear on walks. They’re usually thick and padded and may be either waterproof or water-resistant, which is great when it’s raining or snowing.

Some pets even struggle with the cold when inside the home. Lighter coats and sweaters are great for indoor use, especially if you don’t want to blast the heating all day.

Adjust food intake

Animals use more energy in cold weather, simply to keep warm. This means you may need to increase their food uptake slightly to prevent weight loss. That said, you should assess this on a case-by-case basis. If your pet does significantly less exercise in cold weather, it may naturally balance out. Keep an eye on their weight to look out for any losses or gains and ask your veterinarian, if in doubt.

Be careful of winter toxins

Antifreeze is extremely toxic to pets. Ingesting even a little can be lethal, so clean up any spills immediately and look out for spills on the sidewalk. Deicers and other chemicals used in winter can also be toxic, so be aware. The salt used on roads and pavements in winter isn’t toxic, but can seriously irritate paw pads, so it’s best to avoid walking on it.

Check under your car before driving

Cats are often found dozing near car engines in winter, attracted by the warmth. If your cat is allowed to roam outside, make sure to check under your car before you drive off. Even if you’re not a cat owner, it’s worth checking for other neighborhood cats. You might also want to bang on the hood or the sides of the car to scare off hiding kitties.

Provide a cozy place to sleep

The floor gets cold in winter, so make sure your pet has somewhere warm to sleep. Any thick, cozy pet bed is great, but you could go a step further with a heated or self-warming bed. You can also use blankets to cover your pet or for them to snuggle up with.

What you need to buy for your pets in cold weather

best Musher's Secret Dog Paw Wax

Musher’s Secret Dog Paw Wax

Creating an invisible, breathable barrier between your pet’s paws and the harsh winter conditions, it’s perfect for walks and outdoor adventures. Although it’s designed with dogs in mind, it’s also safe for use on cats.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

best Ruffwear Grip Trex Dog Boots

Ruffwear Grip Trex Dog Boots

With their grippy rubber soles, these boots are perfect for giving your dog extra grip in icy conditions, as well as protecting from frosty surfaces and toxins on the ground. They come in pairs, so you’ll need to buy two pairs to cover all your dog’s feet.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

best Carhartt Pet Insulated Dog Coat

Carhartt Pet Insulated Dog Coat

Made from a firm cotton duck canvas with a water-repellent coating and a cozy lining, this rugged coat is perfect for dogs on cold days. It comes in brown, black, army green, orange and camo, in sizes small to extra large.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

best Expawlorer Plaid Cat Sweater

Expawlorer Plaid Cat Sweater

If you can get your cat into this sweater, it’s perfect for keeping them warm indoors on chilly days. However, if your cat has access to the outside, keep the coat off while they’re out and about, as it could get caught on branches and leave them trapped.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

best K and H Pet Products Thermo-Kitty Heated Cat Bed

K and H Pet Products Thermo-Kitty Heated Cat Bed

Cats are obsessed with warm spots, from the top of the fridge to your laptop keyboard. This heated cat bed gives your feline friend a toasty spot to retreat to on cold days, without getting in your way.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

best Puppbudd Self-Warming Donut Cuddler Pet Bed

Puppbudd Self-Warming Donut Cuddler Pet Bed

This snuggly faux fur donut bed is extremely cozy and is perfect for dogs who like to curl up while they sleep. It comes in four sizes and a wide range of colors, including black, beige, khaki and navy blue.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

best Furrybaby Premium Fluffy Fleece Pet Blanket

Furrybaby Premium Fluffy Fleece Pet Blanket

Cover your chilly pet up on the couch or their own bed with this fleece blanket. It’s machine-washable and dries extremely quickly, so keeping it clean is no trouble.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

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Lauren Corona writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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