Winter Safety Tips for the Active PetNovember 30, 2018
Winter time—you’re at your busiest and the weather at its coldest. Beautiful as this time of year can be, it does pose a unique set of issues for our pets.
It’s easy for us to prepare for the cold: we simply layer up and avoid the outside as much as possible. However, this clearly won’t work for our four-legged friends. That hyperactive pet of yours is just itching to get out of the house, regardless of how deep the snow is. In fact, the deeper the snow, the better.
Despite what you might think as you zip up your second jacket and prepare to brave the elements, your pet’s wild desire to go outside is a good thing. Both pets and humans invariably fall prey to a relatively sedentary lifestyle in the winter—your pet’s activeness can help break the cycle.
As a responsible pet owner, you must protect your best friend against the elements. Let’s meet the cold head on and not let it deprive you or your pet of quality outdoor exercise!
Get the Right Gear
If you’re serious about pet safety (you’re reading this after all), make sure you step out with the right gear to minimize the risk of accidents out in questionable weather. The “right gear” depends on a variety of factors such as your pet’s breed, age, existing medical conditions, and the severity of the cold, etc. How do you decide what gear you need without talking to a vet, then? Simple. Start with the bare basics:
High Visibility Leash/Collar: Snowy hiking trails mean lower visibility. You don’t want your pet getting lost. Get a leash with bright yellow, green, or orange reflectors. Flashing light collars work too. Some pet owners may prefer a simpler approach, like putting a bell on the collar so your pet always remains in earshot if not within sight. This is an excellent option if you have an outdoor cat.
First Aid Kit: You never know what could happen in frigid weathers. Always have a plan. We suggest you keep a first aid kit at home, or in the car when going out of your immediate area. For starters, your first aid kit should contain bandages, tweezers, antiseptics, a flashlight, pieces of soft cloth, and some antibiotic cream. Better safe than sorry!
Booties: Your pet’s feet may be sensitive to ice. This is especially an issue for younger pets whose feet haven’t yet developed callouses. If you see your pet pausing during your walk to pick up their paws often, it’s a clear sign the ice is hurting them. Invest in a pair of booties with Velcro straps rather than the balloon type. They fit better. Just keep in mind that footwear may actually end up hurting your pet if they’re not accustomed to it. Take it slow, let your pet walk around the house in booties for short periods of time, and help make the learning curve easier on them.
Jackets: You’d think that their fur would provide natural insulation, and you’d be right. But natural protection can only do so much in extreme weathers, and specifically in weather your pet’s breed might not be accustomed to. Breeds with minimal fur and younger or elderly pets can’t regulate heat themselves properly. Get a jacket or sweater for your pet and let them experience the warmth you take for granted when bundled up. Do keep a spare too though! You never know when the outerwear will get soaked in the snow, exposing your pets to the mercy of the elements.
Collapsible Bowl: Your pet will have to work harder when hiking in the snow, so you need to stay on top of their hydration and nutritional needs on the go because they’ll be burning more calories. Keep a collapsible bowl or two with you for food and water when you hike. Keep your pet energized and make the most of your time! Having pet food with high quality proteins handy is always a good idea.
Scope Out the Area
Is the hiking trail you’re considering for your next foray safe for your pet in the winter? Make sure you scope out the area in advance and are aware of pitfalls. Not all types of breeds can handle every terrain well—especially when you add snow to the mix. Larger pets, for instance, are prone to ligament injuries in uneven, snow-covered terrain. Breeds with short noses may struggle to breathe on elevated terrain, with the cold exacerbating the issue and causing shortness of breath.
If you’ve owned a pet for long, you’re already aware of their limitations. Your pet wants to spend time with you and may push itself too hard, and that could be disastrous if you haven’t chosen the right area for your hike. At the very least do a little Googling beforehand.
Be Mindful of Chemicals and Salt
Ice melt chemicals and salt are a pet’s ultimate bane in winter. The issue is twofold.
First, the chemicals may damage your pet’s paw pads. Second, you know how much pets like licking their feet, right? You know where we are going with this. Ice melt chemicals, if ingested in high amounts, may cause vomiting and in severe cases, this can lead to seizures.
Remember that piece of cloth we recommended you keep in your first aid kit? Use it to wipe off the snow off your pet’s paws when you think it’s causing irritation. Also, trim the fur between your pet’s paws so clumps of ice and snow don’t lodge there.
Plan Your Time Well
Colder days are shorter, so you need to plan your hike to maximize daylight. Visibility is already an issue in the winter, and unless you’re equipped to camp overnight, time your hike such that you’re home well before the sun starts to set. If, for some reason, you are unable to make it back in time, step off your route and onto the roadside. Trails are deceptive in the cold, and you can easily get lost. The dark naturally worsens the problem. High visibility wear or a flashing collar will come in handy when walking along the road.
There you have it—some of the most important winter safety tips for the active pet. Enjoy this wonderful season with your four-legged friend! Stay safe!