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How to Keep Your Pet Safe In the Wintertime

January 31st, 2012 Pets

Winter is a tough time for many two- and four-legged creatures alike. It can be difficult to stay warm and dry when the weather outside seems so relentlessly chilly and damp. However, our cats and dogs don't always have the chance to simply throw on an extra layer of clothing when the mercury starts to drop. This is why it's so important that pet owners take extra precautions when winter rolls around. According to the Humane Society, there are a few simple guidelines you can follow to help ensure that your cat or dog is happy and healthy until spring rolls around.

1. Keep them indoors. Perhaps the single best thing you can do for your furry friend is to keep him inside until it starts to warm up. Most pets should never be left outside unless it's for exercise. Of course, you have to take your pooch out for a walk every now and then - if your dog has shorter hair, he may feel more comfortable outside if you give him a little sweater to wear.

2. Upgrade your dog house. Although ideally you should be letting your pooch stay inside when it's winter, some dogs naturally spend most of their time outdoors. It's possible to safely keep your dog outside, but you need to make a few changes to his house so that it provides proper shelter. Make sure it's dry and free from drafts, large enough that he can stand comfortably but small enough to help capture his body heat. The floor should be a few inches off the ground and the doorway should be closed off with a heavy material like burlap or plastic.

3. Provide plenty of water. Animals who spend a lot of time outdoors are going to need to drink more water than their indoor counterparts. All that time in the cold weather can be pretty dehydrating, as it takes a fair amount of energy for an animal's body to maintain warmth. For this reason it's vital that you continually make sure that your cat or dog has plenty of water in his bowl. If you're keeping this supply of water outside, you may want to use a plastic dish, as metal can get cold and cause your pet's tongue to stick to the surface.

4. Be careful with anti-freeze. According to the ASPCA, anti-freeze is quite hazardous to the health of animals. Unfortunately, they're attracted to its sweet smell, so you'll need to be extra-careful. If there's any leaking or spillage, be sure to clean it up as soon as possible or you may have a trip to the vet in your future. While you're at it, you may want to consider investing in a pet-friendly ice melter. Traditional products contain salt and chloride, both of which can be harmful to your pet.

5. Keep your dog leashed and clean. Of course, you should still be taking your pooch out on frequent walks in the winter, but there are a few additional steps to bring to the routine. For instance, always make sure your dog is leashed in the winter, even if he usually isn't. Pooches can become lost and disoriented when their familiar surroundings are covered in snow and ice. Also be sure to wipe off his paws before setting foot in the house - it'll help them warm up and they won't end up cleaning themselves off and consuming ice melter in the process.