Winterizing Your Pet for Safety & Well-Being!

By Dr. Doug Pernikoff, DVM


A very weather report I have heard recently predicts a very cold winter this season.  Yikes!  So what do we need to be aware of to protect our pets until the winter disappears and spring sets in? The first obvious issue regards our pets’ direct exposure to prolonged cold , and/or wind and rain.  Pets generally fair well due to specialized anatomy and physiology built in by Mother Nature’s design.   Nonetheless, a multi-layered fur coat may not always be enough.  If your pet has always been an outside pet, then they have likely had time for their bodies to adjust to more extreme conditions.  They do require reasonable cover to block wind or other climatic extremes.  In these scenarios, you should provide access to a basement, garage, or an insulated pet enclosure, in order to protect them.    In turn, you need to secure all areas from exposure to possible poisons or toxins.  As example, be aware that anti-freeze is a sweet tasting chemical that pets will search out in your garage, possibly as it drips from your radiator, or after you have dropped liquid to the floor as you fill the car.  This poison can cause fairly rapid kidney disease and/or, kidney failure.  Other household chemicals like fertilizers, cleansers and more, can suddenly be available to pets in these holding spaces, and prove dangerous to your loved ones.  Outside cats like to hide up inside the car engine area where heat has accumulated during driving.  Unfortunately, owners are unaware of this and may inadvertently, start up the engine while your cat is resting inside, proving catastrophic.  The list goes on and on.  In most instances, good common sense can prevent many such scenarios.

Logical steps to further assure your pet’s well-being throughout a very cold winter season  include a good health review with your veterinarian, updating all preventative healthcare practices and simply having your vet’s hands-on examination verify your pet’s health status.  Be sure that whomever lets the pet out is responsible to let your pet back in.  This practice assures that someone is always responsible to where your pet is and thereby, is unlikely to be forgotten outside.   Depending on the frequency and duration of winter exposure, your pet may require a boost in the amount of food provided daily.  I strongly encourage all pet owners to visit with their veterinarian to review the food issue as well as to accomplish a health assessment defined herein.   Also, be sure that a fresh water source is available at all times, and note that ice is not a fair substitute for water.

Clothing for your pet is not at all illogical either.  Some larger breeds may not require much, or no clothing support for short visits outside, but some of our smaller, lap-spoiled pets do benefit from coverings.  The various pet store chains of today support some very interesting apparel items that are functional and fun to apply.

The bottom line for pet winterization is to apply common sense practices to ensure your family pets can enjoy winter as much as you do.



Dr. Doug Pernikoff & Staff