Written by Marketing Assistant Volunteer Jane Hillhouse.

Winter is here and cold days are upon us. While you cozy up by the fireplace, it’s important to remember your pet’s safety as they romp around in the snow outside. The winter months can cause some serious health issues, so here are a few things to keep in mind to prepare for the chilly, dark days ahead.

Frigid Temperatures

During extreme freezing temperatures, it is imperative to give your pet access to the outside on an as needed basis, and to monitor their activity outside at all times. Just like humans, dogs and cats are susceptible to hypothermia and frostbite, and can lead to serious injuries or illnesses. If you notice your dog shivering, moving slowly, or continuously lifting its paws off the ground, bring them inside immediately. If you own a working cat, ensure they have access to warm, dry, and safe shelter, and access to unfrozen water. All in all, bitter freezing temps are a great reason to cuddle with your furry friend inside until it’s not so cold.

Bundle Up Your Pets 

Let’s not forget how important it is to keep your dogs safe when you take them outside. The colder it is outside, the less exposure you should allow. You can keep your dog warm by bundling them in a sweater if they have short hair, or keeping their coat long and brushed if they have long hair. Never shave your dog during winter months as they need their fur to keep them warm. Since their coat might get quite long, after going outdoors, be sure to brush out any snow or ice, and wipe their paws in case of contact with any ice melt, which can be toxic to pets. If a dog’s paws are raw or inflamed when returning inside, topical antidotes such as petroleum jelly can help ease the pain – speak with your veterinarian to ensure this is a healthy solution for your pet. Alternatively, you can always cover sensitive paws with winter booties before heading outdoors.

It’s also important to make sure you are providing a warm space for small critters. Make sure to keep pet enclosures away from windows as it might not be as warm as the rest of the house. Keep them away from heaters as they could cause burns or overheating, and avoid using electric heating pads as overheating and chewing on the electrical cords can cause serious burns.

Cars and Cold Weather 

While it’s easy to get caught up with shopping, running errands, and staying on schedule, it’s important to keep an eye out for our pets. Before you head out to go shopping, be sure to check your car’s engine and wheels for a sleepy working cat. The warm engine of a recently driven car can make a great bed for a kitty – be sure to help them away from your car before driving away.

It might be tempting to leave your dog in the car while shopping around town, but you should never leave a dog in your car if it’s cold outside. Just as a car can turn into a sauna in the summertime, it can also turn icy cold in the winter. Make a stop at home before shopping and drop your dog off to keep them warm and safe in the comfort of your home.

Holiday Decorations 

Holiday decorations can pose a threat to pets. Always use caution when decorating with tinsel around the house. Cats love shiny, sparkly tinsel, but since it’s metallic, it can cause damage to the esophagus and intestines if consumed. It’s best to use an alternative decoration if possible, but if not, make sure it is out of the pet’s reach so they don’t harm themselves.

Keeping an Eye on Your Pet’s Skin 

While you head to the drugstore to stock up on hand lotion and Chapstick to prepare for a dry Colorado winter, keep in mind that it’s important to keep your pet’s skin moisturized and protected from the cold as well. Cats, dogs, and small critters can have dry and flakey skin in the winter so it can be helpful to bathe them regularly with a moisturizing shampoo to keep their skin healthy. Reptiles and small birds rely on humidity to keep their skin hydrated and to shed their skin, while dry conditions can cause dehydration and a lack of skin shedding in reptiles. To avoid this, keep your reptiles and birds safe by misting them with warm water several times a week. Providing a bowl with warm water can also help rejuvenate skin, and be sure to change out the dish with fresh water regularly.

By being proactive about keeping your pet safe in the cold weather, you will be rewarded with a happy and healthy pet. Stay warm, and enjoy a cozy winter with your pet by your side!