Just as summer heat can create safety concerns for both indoor and outdoor pets, winter’s cold requires its own precautions. To avoid a sick or uncomfortable pet and a visit to the animal hospital, follow these basic preparation tips to keep your furry friends warm, comfortable, and out of trouble:

  • Make sure your outdoor pets have somewhere warm and safe to retreat when temperatures drop. Now is a great time to inspect and repair doghouses, or buy a new one if necessary. Make sure it is protected from the elements and large enough to accommodate your pet. Your pet should be able to turn around comfortably. It doesn’t need to be much larger than that; smaller dog houses are easier for your pet to warm with his own body heat or make her feel more cozy and safe. Your veterinarian may have recommendations on what types and brands of pet shelters are best in your climate, as might the employees at your favorite pet store.
  • Consider installing a pet door. Although they have traditionally been considered an energy drain, many now come with magnetic flaps and insulated features that keep your home sealed from the elements. Some even seal and unseal only when your pet is near thanks to radio signals from a special pet collar. When temperatures drop it’s nice to know that your furry friend can come and go as needed, remaining safe without disrupting the comfort of your home or the size of your utility bill.
  • Plan ahead for how you will keep your pet’s food and water from freezing when the cold really comes in. Outdoor dogs and cats need water throughout the day, and extra food to maintain their body temperatures in the chill. If their bowls freeze over, it will be as if you left them with a dry dish. Pet Finder has some great tips for how to insulate water and food dishes, and for heated products you can purchase.
  • Consider letting your pet’s fur or hair grow out in the winter for extra insulation. If you choose to do so, don’t forget to keep regular appointments at the groomer to keep your furry friend bathed and brushed, or to take care of this maintenance yourself. If you are used to a shaved pet during warmer months it can take getting used to regularly keeping up with all the hair. Tangles and mats are uncomfortable for the pet and hard to get rid of once they start. Also consider getting your pet used to sweaters and coats now if he or she has short hair or is prone to shivering. Nothing is sadder than the site of a chattering chihuahua or Siamese!
  • If you will be going out of town for the holidays, talk to your vet about if the animal hospital, pet clinic, or veterinary office he or she works out of offers boarding services or can recommend a boarder. Book your appointments early so you don’t have to worry about smaller boarders having room. Also inquire if they can handle any regular grooming services while your pet is already there.