8 Winter Pet Care Tips

Tabitha Alterman, Mother Earth News Associate Editor
January/February 2007
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Winter is a tough time for us all, but it can be especially hard on pets. Here are a few tips for protecting your pets this winter:

  • Keep pets indoors as much as possible during cold weather. Like humans, animals can get frostbite.

  • If a dog stays outside for the winter, it is important to provide an insulated home. Line the floor with cedar shavings or straw to ensure warmth. Check water often to make sure it has not frozen.

  • If your dog begins to shiver when you're out for a walk, bring it inside immediately.

  • Trim the long hair on the bottom of pets' feet to prevent ice balls from forming.

  • Road salt and other de-icing chemicals are damaging to pets' paws, and can be hazardous if ingested; wash your pets' paws after being outdoors. Use sand or a nontoxic alternative to salt when dealing with icy sidewalks.

  • Antifreeze is a poison, yet its sweet taste unfortunately attracts curious animals. Always clean any spills thoroughly. Or try a safer alternative, such as antifreeze made with propylene glycol.

  • Cats and wildlife seek shelter from warmth by crawling into available covered spaces, including vehicles. Banging on the hood of your car before starting the engine should scare out any stowaways.

  • Our smaller friends, such as birds, hamsters and guinea pigs, can be chilled if their cages are kept in drafty areas. Keep cages away from doors and windows in winter.

Post a comment below.


1/18/2007 12:00:00 AM
Even dogs of the same breed are different! My 160# Great Pyreneese (sire from Alaska) had a very dense coat. My 140# Great Pyreneese (sire from France) had a very sparse coat and had to be protect from sunburn. They were not compatible to winter conditions. The early St. Bernards bred for rescue had problems with ice clumps forming in their fur, becoming so heavy that they couldn't move, and they died. Now the long curly coats are the show dogs and rescue dogs have shorter coats.

Cameron McLaughlin
1/6/2007 12:00:00 AM
Please remember, too, that even long-haired cats aren't nearly as cold-tolerant as dogs. Cats are generally very sensitive to cold temperatures and need to be protected and have warm shelter even if they grow a dense winter coat.

Walter Jeffries
1/5/2007 12:00:00 AM
Wow! I am so sorry to see Mother Earth News publishing bad advise like this. This reads straight from the ill-informed "humane" society. A great number of dogs are specifically bred for cold climate and are NOT comfortable indoors in the winter. They have heavy fur coats and prefer being outdoors. Additionally they must be outdoors because that is where their job is. They also do not need or want insulated dog houses. You are projecting your human needs and ideals onto another species that does not need or what it. You need to stop dreaming and get in touch with the real world.

Abra Gwartney
1/5/2007 12:00:00 AM
While WJeffries' comments are correct as far as they go, people who have pets of the City veriety (small dogs and cats) would be well advised to pay attention to your pet winter tips. Jeffries' admonitions have to do with a small group of special case animals that thrive in the winter conditions of the Northern States. I'm sure the scolding did'nt mean to imply that all animals don't need indulated houses for winter night time outdoor stays, even though that is what it sounded like to me. I once had a Great Pyranese dog and she loved to go to the mountains durring snow conditions and romp. Once, we found outselves in blizzard conditions and she curled up in the bed of the pickup and vanished under the snow. Snow can be a nice warm blanket to a mountain dog. I didn't know where she was until I called her name and she stuck her head up. I've also had dogs with short hair that would have froze to death in the same conditions. Keep up the good work. Thanks.

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