Is Your Pet Winterized? Tips for Keeping your Pet Warm and Safe During Cold Weather

So you’ve winterized your car, your house, and your lawn. But what about your pet? It may sound amusing at first, but with winter already bringing Arctic winds and tumbling temperatures this year – not to mention an abundance of snow, sleet and freezing rain – it’s important that you take the time to prepare your pet adequately for the season. Here are some winter threats that lurk around, as well as tips on how to keep your pet safe

Toxic Winter Products

Anti-Freeze:  Never, ever leave automotive antifreeze where your pet can access it, and make sure you clean up any spills quickly and thoroughly. This highly toxic, yellowish green contains ethylene glycol, which is a powerful toxin that can quickly damage your pet’s kidneys. A single lick of this fluid can pose serious danger to the health of your pet, and, unfortunately, it has a smell and flavor that pets can find appealing. If you suspect that your dog or cat has come into contact with or ingested anti-freeze, take them immediately to the vet – this is a life-threatening emergency.

Windshield Cleaner:  This cleaner is less toxic than antifreeze, but it’s still a serious threat to your pet. Most varieties contain methanol, which can cause severe nervous system depression in pets, which may result in drooling, vomiting, and instability.

Ice Melt Products:   For most people who live in cold climates, treating walkways, driveways, and outdoor steps with rock salt or other ice melt products de rigueur during winter months. It may seem harmless enough – it’s just salt after all, right? 

Unfortunately, these products can cause everything from gastrointestinal tract irritation to depression, weakness, seizures and cardiac problems. Keep in mind that even if your pet never ingests ice melt products, walking on treated areas can dry out and irritate your pet’s paws.  Dry paws can lead to cracking and discomfort, and creates the possibility of infection.

Pet safe ice melt products are available. However, it’s impossible to control what other people put on their sidewalks.  To keep your pet safe and comfortable, gently wash and dry off his paws and his belly at the end of each walk, and when you enter the car during travel. Boots can prevent some irritation, but it’s hard to find varieties that truly stay on. Coating your dog’s paws with pet paw wax may be your best option for a preventative measure.

Indoor Dangers

Heating Elements:  Pets naturally seek out warm, cozy places during winter, and they’re often drawn to space heaters, heat lamps and fireplaces. These heat sources can pose dangers to your pets, so it’s important to monitor them.  Stray hairs can ignite quickly, so keep all fluffy tails from exposure to heat lamps and space heaters. Protect your pet from the open flames and sparks of a fireplace by using a safety screen or glass.

Outdoor Threats

The Elements:  Your pet isn’t totally protected from winter’s chill just because he has fur. Short-haired breeds that live in cold climates may be in need of protective clothing when spending time outdoors.

Keep a close eye on your pet while outdoors in cold weather, and bring them indoors if they are exhibiting signs of being too cold.  Monitor your pet closely to avoid overexposure, which can lead to hypothermia – a life-threatening condition. Signs of hypothermia include lethargy, weakness, muscle stiffness, difficulty breathing, and fixed and dilated pupils. Time outdoors during particularly harsh cold snaps should be limited for all breeds.

Never leave your pet unattended in freezing cold car. Once you shut off your car’s heater, the temperature drops far more rapidly than you might think.

Bodies of Water:  Romping through the snow off-leash is a favorite winter pastime for many dogs. However, before you remove the leash, it’s important to know the area in which your dog is playing to ensure that he doesn’t inadvertently fall into an unseen body of water.

Even seemingly frozen bodies of water can pose threats. Every year there are incidents in which dogs fall through thin ice and injure themselves, or worse – incidents which could easily have been prevented.

Car Engines:  Cats who roam outdoors often seek shelter from the cold by curling up in the warmth of a recently-turned off car engine. Turning your car on while a cat is snuggled up on your engine is obviously something you never want to have happen.  To alert any cat that may be near your car engine, bang on your hood a few times before getting in and starting your car.

Of course, you could always avoid winter threats by traveling south to a warmer climate! If you plan to escape winter’s chill by traveling with your pet, be sure to plan ahead.  If traveling by plane, check with your carrier to determine their airline pet policies. If traveling by car, be sure to take all the necessary steps for a safe, happy and fun winter road trip, including securing pet friendly hotels & accommodations along your travel route!

About is the #1 online resource for pet travel. Named best pet travel site by Consumer Reports,’s mission is to offer resources that ensure pets are welcome, happy, and safe while traveling.  The website features a directory of pet friendly hotels and accommodations across the United States and Canada, as well as airline & car rental pet policies; pet friendly restaurants, beaches, and events; a user-friendly route search option; pet travel tips; pet travel supplies; and other pet travel resources.

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