Cold Weather Tips for Pets

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When the temperatures drop and the snow beings to fall, we typically need to make some changes to our routine and our wardrobe to stay comfortable and cozy. This can include things like putting down sand and salt to keep our sidewalks safe in icy conditions to bundling up in a winter jacket, toque and gloves when going outdoors. If you are a pet owner, you will also need to take extra precautions to protect your animals from some seasonal hazards. When Old Man Winter arrives, use these tips to help keep your pet safe and warm. It’s all part of being a responsible pet owner!

  • It sounds simple, but the easiest thing you can do is keep your animals indoors when the weather is unfavourable. Some dogs can tolerate cold weather, but cats should primarily stay inside. If you do have dogs that spend more time outside or participate in outdoor activities, consider increasing their food supply to provide them with the energy they need. And if there are outdoor cats in your neighbourhood, bang on your vehicle before starting the engine, as cats will often sleep under the hood of a car for warmth and protection. 
  • Dogs can lose their scent on snow or ice, so take care when letting your dog off leash, as they can easily get disoriented and become lost. Visit dog off-leash parks that are fully enclosed to help avoid this issue.
  • If you do take your dogs outside or off leash, make sure they are wearing their required identification tags, so if they do get lost, they have a greater chance of being found and returned safely. More dogs go missing in the winter than any other time of year.
  • When dogs come inside from being outdoors, be sure to wipe off their feet, legs and stomach to ensure they don’t ingest any salt, antifreeze or other chemicals when they lick their paws or fur. If you use an ice melt product at your home, look for one labelled as “pet friendly” that is non-toxic and will not harm your animals.
  • Also, inspect their paw pads when your dogs come inside from being outdoors. Check for ice balls that can accumulate between the pads and toes of their feet and use warm water to melt them away if necessary. Be sure to watch that their pads don’t begin to crack or bleed from the cold weather and if they are looking irritated, use an appropriate product, like a paw balm, to provide relief.
  • It can be tempting to take your pet with you when you go for a drive, but you should never leave your animal alone in a vehicle in cold weather, as the vehicle will hold in the cold and could cause your pet to freeze to death. The safest option is to leave them at home or, if you must travel with an animal, bring someone along for the ride who can stay with your pet and the vehicle.
  • If you have a pet that requires regular haircuts, be careful not to go too short during the winter months as their fur provides them with protection from the cold. Going to a professional groomer can help ensure your pet has the right haircut for the season. If you own a short-haired breed, consider buying a coat or sweater that covers the area from the neck to the tail, as well as the belly, to provide additional warmth.
  • Indoor fireplaces can provide additional warmth and ambience in your home, but if you have pets, be sure to always use a fireplace screen to prevent them from getting too close to the flames.
  • Provide your pets with a warm, draft-free place to sleep. This can be done by adding a blanket to a crate or kennel, or having a cozy dog or cat bed available in your home.

If you see an animal in distress due to the cold, please contact Animal Control (Enforcement Services).