Are Your Pets Prepared for Winter’s Second Half?

So far, many parts of the country have experienced a relatively mild winter. Temperatures in most areas have been a little above average and snowfall has been slightly less than normal. 

Of course, that’s what occurred through the first half of January last year before the bottom dropped out.

A massive polar vortex plunged much of the nation into a deep freeze. And the excessive cold lasted throughout February and into March. 

There’s no way to know if that will occur again this year. But we do know there is plenty of winter left. And it’s bound to get colder and snowier in many parts.

Don’t forget your furry friendS 

You might be ready for this. But are your pets? Have you factored your dogs, cats and other pets into your winter emergency plan?

If so, great. If not, there’s still time if you act quickly. Harsh winters almost always include blizzards and power outages. And sometimes flooding when the white stuff melts.

Maybe your snow removal equipment is ready and waiting. Perhaps you’ve stocked your pantry with enough non-perishable food to last you and your family for a while.

But don’t forget to plan ahead for those furry friends as well. Preparing a pet bug-out bag would save you valuable time if you have to evacuate quickly. And it will be a huge help for your pets who will be confused and concerned about the relocation.

Prepare a pet bug-out bag

Following are items you will want to consider for your pets’ bug-out bag:

  • Food and water for three days or more
  • Food and water bowls
  • Litter and a litter box
  • Pet first-aid kit
  • Collars, leashes and ID tags with updated information
  • Medications and medical records in a waterproof bag
  • Toys and treats
  • Bedding
  • Brushes and other grooming items
  • Paper towels and trash bags
  • Bleach for cleaning
  • Phone numbers of local pet boarding facilities and pet-friendly hotels
  • Photos of your pet in case you get separated

You should also microchip your pets. And make sure they are current with their vaccinations. Also, have carriers for the smaller ones.

Protect those paws and pads

Even when there is no emergency, winter can cause problems for your pets.

Snow and ice can get stuck in their paws, so dry them off when they come in from outside. Yes, it would eventually melt, but they could get a freeze burn in the meantime.

Even worse than snow and ice are road salts and other chemical ice-melts they might come in contact with.

So, use a washcloth and lukewarm water to gently clean those paws and pads thoroughly. Then dry them carefully. 

Fashionably dressed

You also might want to consider bundling them up when they go out in the cold. This depends on where you live, the breed of dog you own and how much time they spend outdoors.

Smaller, short-haired breeds are most susceptible to cold weather. But if it’s cold enough, almost any dog could benefit from this.

If you decide to use a dog sweater or snow coat for your pets, make sure it fits snuggly but allows for movement.

Of course, your dog should have plenty of space for relieving himself. Bright colors are best so they can be seen by motorists. Once inside, remove the clothing quickly, especially if it’s wet.

A canine caution

There are some downsides to dogs wearing sweaters. So you should always stay near them when they do.

Those sweaters can get wet and then freeze in close contact with your dog’s fur. Without the sweater, he could shake off that moisture.

Susan Wynn is a veterinary nutritionist. Here’s what she says.

“Not only does your pet risk frostbite and other danger if his canine clothes get wet. He may try to get out of the sweater or coat and get caught in a way that makes suffocation a risk.” 

These boots were made for walking

Some dogs don’t mind wearing footgear. Others want nothing to do with it. If your dog is willing to wear doggie boots, make sure they provide good traction.

They should have adjustable straps. And the material should be water-resistant or waterproof. You want a secure fit that’s not too tight.

If your dogs sleep in an outdoor shelter, make sure you bring them in the house when temperatures get too low.

Inside the shelter, make sure your dogs have clean, dry bedding. As well as thawed food and water. And if they ever do get hypothermia or frostbite, take them to a vet immediately. 

Be wary of water

Puppies and older dogs – not to mention cats – are more susceptible to cold weather than dogs in their healthier years.

They should not be left alone in the cold for very long. When it’s especially cold, only allow them out for quick bathroom breaks. Shovel an area on your lawn for this.

When walking your dogs, keep them away from frozen ponds. They might not be as frozen as they appear.

And don’t allow our pets to drink standing water. It could contain road salt, chemicals or antifreeze that has leaked from cars.

The winter won’t last forever. Soon your pets can enjoy more outdoor fun. But for now, make sure they’re prepared for emergencies and general winter weather.

Pets are part of our families, and they deserve to be treated like family.

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