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Winterization Checklist for Keeping Pets Safe, Healthy

January 30, 2018

Winterization Checklist for Keeping Pets Safe, Healthy | Golden Meadows

Snow happens – and when it does, you and your pet need to be ready for it. Winter can introduce some pretty unique pet risks we don’t consider during the rest of the year. Head outdoors without considering them and you may find your pup suffering or struggling more than he’s having fun.

(P.S. – that goes for you, too).

This winter, we want you and furry friend to have the best time ever.

That’s why we put together this easy printable pet winterization checklist; it’s loaded with common-sense strategies and tips to get you both through the winter. We start with a quick reference checklist you can print off and keep nearby to ensure winter safety. In the sections after, we explain each checklist item and tell you exactly what you have to do to avoid being ice-olated and happy until spring comes around again.

Enjoy your winter!

Quick Reference Checklist

  • Check for extreme temperatures.
  • Stay indoors during bad weather.
  • Consider breed hardiness and age.
  • Allocate more food for winter activities.
  • Increase protein to stay warm.
  • Keep dogs leashed in bad weather.
  • Use a doggy jacket and/or booties.
  • Protect delicate paws from ice and salt.
  • Keep antifreeze up high, away from pets.
  • Use pet-friendly snow and ice chemicals.
  • Always provide shelter in the yard.
  • Block off fireplaces and space heaters.
  • See the vet for any cold-weather health issues.

Checking for Extreme Temperatures

Temperatures throughout the United States and Canada have been absolutely frigid – as low as zero or even less in some cases. Before you head outside with your dog, check the temperature and make a judgement call on whether it’s wise. Anything under 20 Fahrenheit is cause for short excursions rather than long hours outside.

Don’t forget that wind chill plays a role in outdoor ambient temperature. If the thermostat only says 35 Fahrenheit, but the windchill puts it at 20 Fahrenheit, going outside may still be risky. Moisture, rain, and snow can also exacerbate the cold.

Stay Indoors During Extreme Weather

Is the weather especially frightful? Consider calling it a day and staying inside. Extreme temperatures, blizzards, ice storms, hail storms, and other serious winter weather events can rapidly make your dog cold, wet, and miserable. In the worst of the worst weather, you can even address potty time by keeping a faux grass pee pad in the garage.

Consider Breed Hardiness & Age

Winter affects each dog breed differently; a large, winter-bred dog like a Malamute will do much better in cold weather than a tiny little miniature poodle. You should always consider your dog’s breed information and how likely they are to become cold before you play outdoors. Generally, the smaller and more shorthaired the dog, the more quickly they are to become cold. Age – young or old – also makes dogs particularly susceptible.

Allocate More Food for Winter Activities

Exercising in cold weather burns more calories. To that end, you should slightly increase your dog’s diet in proportion with how much he exercises and how long he spends outside. Monitor your dog’s Body Condition Score, or BCS, and adjust his food up or down by 10 percent as needed. You can also choose a food with a slightly higher protein to keep him warm and snug in winter.

Keep Dogs Leashed in Cold Weather

It’s a delightful sight to see a pup leap and bound through powder snow, but unless you’re within a fenced in area, it isn’t necessarily safe to let him free. It takes only a second for your pup to become spooked and run – and getting lost in the winter is even more dangerous.

Use Doggy Jackets & Booties

Heading out? Consider putting a jacket and/or booties on your dog. A warm down-filled jacket can go a long way to keeping a tiny puppy warm, while booties will successfully protect the feet. If you use booties, just be sure to try them at home first – sometimes dogs need a bit of time to get used to them.

Protect Delicate Paws From Ice & Salt

Booties protect the paws, but they aren’t for every dog. If your dog doesn’t like them, coat his paw in AKC’s homemade paw balm instead. Made from beeswax and soothing emollients, these balms create a protective waterproof barrier between your dog’s paw and the ground. This prevents ice buildup and salt burn.

Keep Antifreeze Stored Away From Pets

Antifreeze is important for winter drivers, but unfortunately, it’s also highly flavorful and poisonous for dogs and cats. A dog that drinks even a few splashes can suffer from kidney failure and even death. Always keep antifreeze stored in a locked cabinet and clean spills up immediately.

Use Pet-friendly Snow & Ice Chemicals

Using salt on your driveway? It can be hard on paws. It’s better to use pet-friendly chemical solutions that melt ice without harming tender tootsies. Products containing modified crystalline carbonyl diamide and eco-safe glycol may be slightly more expensive, but they do the job without hurting Fido’s feet.

Always Provide Outside/Backyard Shelter

Whether you have a fenced-in backyard or a giant farm your dog roams, she should always be able to access shelter easily in the winter. This could be a heated barn, a doggie door, a heated doghouse, or something else entirely – as long as she can come in when the cold becomes too much. Dogs who stay outside for too long can experience frostbite and hypothermia.

Block Off Fireplaces & Space Heaters

We’ve talked quite a bit about the cold, but we haven’t talked about is indoor heating risks like fireplaces, candles, space heaters, and other potentially flammable sources. It takes a dog only seconds to stumble and fall into a fireplace or brush up against a space heater and suffer serious burns.

See the Vet if You Suspect Issues

Your most important skill of all – know when to see the vet. If you suspect your dog is losing weight, has sore paws, or may have experienced frostbite, don’t let it wait. Schedule an appointment with your vet immediately and have it looked at. Your dog’s health, happiness, and winter fun depends entirely on your willingness to be proactive.

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