Depending on where you live, winter can mean mild temperatures that require a light coat and hat, or sub-zero mornings where you sport a full-length parka on top of two layers of clothing as you trudge through a foot of snow. If you happen to reside in a part of our world that sounds more like the latter, you’re probably finding yourself in a slow transition from late night walks with your companion animal to watching movies and cuddling on the couch.

But don’t let the thought of freezing temps get you down. Winter may be chilly, but it’s also a time of year where we wake up to freshly fallen snow that turns our landscapes into a magical scene straight out of a fairytale. And where we enjoy hot cocoa by the fire after a day of watching kids and pets play in the snow. It’s a great time of year, but the winter months also bring a few dangers for our furry friends. By being aware of these dangers and taking a few extra steps to protect our companions, we can ensure a happy and safe winter for all.

1. Caring for Your Pet’s Paws

The ice-melting chemicals placed on sidewalks and roads wreak havoc on paws — and can be dangerous if ingested. If you do a lot of walking on sidewalks, a pair of dog booties can help protect your pet’s paws from the ice and salt. Make sure the booties are the right fit and allow your dog to walk comfortably. It’s all about function, not fashion.

If putting booties on your pet isn’t your thing, massage a bit of pet-safe wax or oil onto their paw pads before your walk. Afterward, wipe down their paws and stomach with a warm, damp cloth to remove any salt or slush. Keeping the fur between paw pads trimmed can also help prevent salt and snow from getting lodged in-between their toes.

2. Be Aware of Winter Toxins

Sidewalk chemicals aren’t the only danger. Antifreeze, which has a sweet taste that can attract animals, can leak from your car’s radiator, causing a toxic hazard to pets that can be fatal. To prevent accidental ingestion, keep pets out of the garage and all chemicals out of reach. If you notice any spills from your vehicle, make sure you clean it up right away.

Snow poses a danger when it becomes contaminated with chemicals from sidewalks, roads, and vehicles. It can also hide small items that can cause serious damage if ingested.  Even though watching a pet eat snow can be rather entertaining, it’s best not to let your pooch engage in snow eating activities while you’re on a walk.

3. Help Pets Stay Warm

Dogs and cats get cold, and like humans, they can suffer from hypothermia or frostbite. Please don’t leave your pets outside for an extended period in freezing temperatures, and keep walks short on days where the temperature drops. Dogs and cats that are small, old, or have short coats can get cold easily. A sweater or fleece coat that covers their body without restricting movement can help keep them warm. Placing a warm blanket on their bed also helps pets retain body heat during the colder months.

Even pets who never go outside can be affected by chilly winter temperatures. If you have birds or smaller animals you keep as companions, make sure their enclosures are located away from drafty doors and windows.

4. Vehicle Dangers and Travel Safety

Warm car engines are an attractive sleeping spot for an outdoor cat or small wildlife. Prevent injury to hiding critters by checking behind tires and tapping the hood of your vehicle before starting the engine.  Also, make sure you’re prepared for winter travel on slippery roads. Always keep pets kenneled or restrained with a safety harness, and make sure you have a few extra blankets to keep you and your pet warm if you end up on the side of the road.

5. Be Safe During Outdoor Adventures

Romping through the snow can be fun for most pups, and even some cats, but snow can also hide potential dangers like partially-frozen lakes or traps laid by hunters in wooded areas. Always use caution, especially if you are exploring a new area. Help keep your pet safe by either keeping them on a leash or making sure they stay closeby instead of allowing them to run too far ahead of you.

And most importantly, don’t forget to have fun! You can beat cabin fever with a fun game of fetch indoors, or give your pets interactive puzzle toys filled with treats to help beat boredom. Short walks on warmer, sunny days or a quick run through freshly fallen snow are other great ways for you and your pets to get a bit of exercise and fresh air and beat those winter blues.

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