-It's a common sense rule but one that must be mentioned: don't leave your pets outside for too long. Some pets may be used to spending a lot of time outdoors, but during the winter months these hours should be scaled back and conditions need to be altered. Be sure farm dogs and the like have access to shelter, make sure water bowls are kept fresh (not frozen), and put out more food for any pets spending a lot of time outdoors (their bodies need more calories during these times).
-For cats, be careful of their tendency to crawl into warm spaces outside (including underneath cars and next to radiators, etc...). Inside, try to keep open flames, space heaters and any other potentially dangerous sources of heat far from the paws and tails of the pets in the house.
-Pets with short hair are especially vulnerable to the cold, but remember that putting a sweater on your little Chihuahua isn't enough to make her invincible. Animals lose much of their body heat through their paws and ears, so keep the little ones warm and inside as much as possible.
-After coming back inside after a snowy play session, be sure to check your pet's paws. Pieces of ice as well as de-icing substances like road salt can become stuck in an animal's fur and cause irritation to paw pads. Make it a habit to do a quick wipe down with a warm washcloth, check for cracked skin or discoloration, and consider trimming the fur around the toes to discourage clumping from occurring.
-As we've mentioned before, it's important to maintain a good relationship with a vet so that, in times of emergency, you'll know exactly where to turn. During the winter months, talk to your vet about how to take the best care of your pet and be sure to maintain a regular schedule of check-ups.
-Our recent PetRelocation holiday travel survey discovered that many of you will be bringing your pets along with you when you visit friends and family, so in addition to preparing yourself and your car for a cold weather drive, also consider these basic pet travel tips before you hit the road.
-Remember that very young and very old pets as well as those with health conditions will be especially sensitive to extreme temperatures. Just like in humans, arthritic joints, respiratory problems and immune system weaknesses can all be aggravated by brisk weather so observe your more fragile pets carefully.
-To help with the house training situation, be sure to shovel a clear path in the yard that dogs can use during snowy and icy weather. This can be the toughest time to keep a pet potty-trained, so factor this in if you're considering adopting a puppy this holiday season.
How do you deal with the cold? Share your tips for keeping your pets warm and toasty here in the comments or on our Facebook page!
(photo by jpctalbot via flickr)