Winter is in full swing, and you need to keep in mind that, like you, your pet can also feel the bite of this season’s chill. Fortunately, you can protect your pet from the cold and related hazards by taking a few precautions. Our Pioneer Animal Hospital team shares tips to help you keep your pet happy, healthy, and warm in the cold. 

Schedule your pet’s winter wellness exam

Protecting your pet’s health is essential year-round. Pets should be assessed by a veterinary professional at least annually because they are excellent at hiding illness and may not show signs until their condition is advanced. During a wellness visit, your pet’s veterinarian will perform a thorough physical examination and diagnostic tests to help detect health complications in the early stages when they are easier to treat and manage.

Protect your pet from parasites 

Most parasites can survive when temperatures drop, so they still pose a threat to your pet’s health. Parasites can transmit harmful diseases, cause allergic reactions, and infest your home. Pets can transmit many parasitic diseases to people (i.e., zoonotic diseases), especially children, the elderly, and immunocompromised populations. Administering parasite preventives year-round is the best and easiest way to ensure your pet has effective, uninterrupted protection. 

Adopt a cold-weather pet grooming routine 

Maintain your pet’s grooming routine during cold weather to ensure their comfort and wellbeing. Follow these tips when grooming your pet when the weather is cold:

  • Keep your pet’s coat long — If your pet has a long coat, keep it a bit longer in the winter for extra warmth. However, ensure your pet’s coat is not so long that it gets wet and muddy easily.
  • Brush your pet often — Regular brushing helps remove dead hair and skin, improving the coat’s insulation properties. Brushing also helps prevent matting, which can be more problematic in wet winter conditions.
  • Protect your pet’s paws — Your pet’s paw pads can become dry and cracked in cold weather, especially from exposure to salt and deicing chemicals. Clean their paws after walks and consider using a pet-safe moisturizing paw balm. Booties can also be a good paw protection option.
  • Bathe your pet less — Bathe your pet less frequently in winter as bathing removes essential oils and increases the chance of dry, flaky skin. When you do bathe your pet during the winter, ensure they are completely dry before going outside.
  • Keep your pet’s ears dry — Damp ears can lead to infections, which are more likely when your pet is exposed to a lot of moisture from snow or rain.
  • Trim your pet’s nails — Because pets are typically less active in the winter, their nails don’t wear down as much naturally. The cold can also make your pet’s nails more brittle, so keeping their nails trimmed is the best way to prevent them from breaking.
  • Brush your pet’s teeth daily — Maintain your pet’s oral health all year to reduce their dental disease risk. Brushing your pet’s teeth daily removes plaque before the substance hardens into tartar. 

Keep your pet warm outside

Schnauzer dog standing in the snow wearing a red coat

Before venturing out into the cold, you bundle up in a coat, scarf, gloves, hat, and boots to stay warm and dry, and your pet may also need appropriate cold-weather gear to protect them from the harsh elements, depending on their cold tolerance. Ensure your pet stays warm in the cold by following these tips:

  • Provide your pet with a coat —  A  well-fitting waterproof jacket is a great way to trap your pet’s body heat while repelling icy moisture that can leach away warmth. 
  • Consider pet booties — Waterproof booties protect sensitive paw pads from snow, ice, and salt, keeping dogs’ feet free from cuts, scrapes, and chemicals.
  • When in doubt, keep your pet inside — If the outside weather is too cold for you, it’s also too cold for your pet. Below-freezing temperatures are uncomfortable for most pets, and heavy moisture or high wind can make them feel even worse. Prolonged exposure to the cold puts all pets at risk of frostbite and hypothermia. When in doubt, stay inside, and go outdoors only for potty breaks.

Have fun with your pet this winter while ensuring they enjoy the season safely. If you have questions about how to keep your pet safe in the cold or need to schedule their annual wellness visit, contact our Pioneer Animal Hospital team.