How to Prep Your Pets for Winter

As temperatures plunge, you might be getting geared up for winter weather and holiday fun. Before you break the decorations out of storage, though, make sure the furry members of your family are ready for wintry weather. Most dogs and cats will acclimate to the changes in weather, but as you adjusting your own schedule and habits in preparation for cool temperatures and icy conditions, it’s important to adjust your pet’s, too. Here’s a few of our top tips on keeping your best friend safe and comfortable through the season.

Take a Good Look at Their Paws

When it comes to caring for your pet in the cold and snow, you’ll find that you might have to dogleg from your usual routine. Dogs and cats’ tails, paws and ears are most sensitive to extreme cold (and therefore most likely to get frostbitten). Not only can the cold freeze toes and paws, many deicers, including sidewalk salt, can irritate your pup’s paws. If your dog or cat is prone to licking their paws, a wrong step into deicer could mean a sick pet later. Consider keeping toes warm with booties, or trimming the hair between your pup’s paw pads to prevent freezing and discomfort. If you’re in a city, steer clear of over-salted streets, or rub a little Vaseline or balm on your pup’s paws to protect them. Country or city, if your dog or cat is sans booties, rinse and wipe paws as soon as they come back inside.

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Consider Coats and Sweaters

Sleet, snow and short-hair makes for some uncomfortable winter walks. For dogs with short-haired coats, you might consider buying a raincoat or weather-proof sweater for cold and blustery days. You’ll save time on toweling off after walks, and you’ll prevent your pup from getting sick or frostbitten in extreme temperatures (and keep them warm and comfy!)

Keep up with Grooming

As temperatures cool, your dog or cat will start to shed his or her summer coat. Depending on your pet’s coat, you’ll want to keep up on brushing her to prevent mats and skin infection. As you’re upping your brushing, though, you may find dry, itchy skin just as much of a hassle for your pet as it is for you. Decrease—but don’t entirely cut out—baths in the winter to ensure your pet comfortable and itch-free.

Limit Time Spent Outdoors and Off Leash…

In the most extreme weather, you’ll want to keep a closer eye on your pet. Limit your dog or cat’s outdoor time to the essentials, and be sure to go out only in the warmest parts of the day. When you’re out on your daily walks, proceed with caution, and if you’re near a rural area, don’t let your pup off-leash—dogs especially can get into tricky situations, falling through icy water or getting stuck on unseen obstacles in the snow.

…But Make Sure They Get Plenty of Play Time

If you’re staying indoors, be sure to compensate whatever time your dog gets outdoors with play time. Consider incorporating puzzle treat toys to keep your pet occupied, and be sure to schedule in lots of social time. You might even consider buying an interactive dog or cat feeder, or scheduling a few play dates with Fido’s friends.

Get Cozy

When you break out your extra sweaters and blankets, don’t forget your pet! Dogs and cats will move toward heat sources to keep warm, especially if they’ve got shorter coats, but you’ll want to make sure they don’t curl up  to close next to a hot radiator or a burning fire. Block off your pet’s access to heat sources and burning elements, for their safety. To compensate for the extra chill, add some extra bedding to your dog or cat’s favorite spot, or buy a thicker bed overall for the winter months.

Pet Proof the House for the Holidays

As you start hauling out ornaments, wreaths, candles and tinsel, you’ll want to strategize your decorating not only for the holiday card, but for your pet’s health and safety. Holiday plants such as mistletoe, as well as decorations and centerpieces such as tinsel and candles can often be toxic to pets. Keep small ornaments out of reach of curious pets, and keep an eye on pets near open flames. If you’re having guests, make sure they don’t sneak the cat or dog any under-the-table treats—fatty treats can make your pet sick, and meat bones can be a choking hazard to pets of all sizes.

Consider Pet Insurance

One of the best ways to prep your cat or dog for extreme weather is to ensure they’ll have coverage and care year-round. Investing in pet insurance will help your pet stay healthy when disaster hits–and help you save a little money on routine checkups and boosters.