Pet Winter Safety: Essential Winter Safety Tips for your Favorite Pets

Holiday & seasonal
Pug Wearing Blue Coat in Snow

Winter is creeping closer and closer--some parts of the country have even seen their first snowfall already! It’s time to talk about what threats are lurking in the cold, snow, and ice and how to prepare our pets for the battle against winter. Winter is not just a season of joy and festivities; it's also a time when our furry companions face unique challenges. As pet parents, understanding and preparing for these pet winter safety hazards is crucial. Even breeds that are made for the snow can face trouble if we don’t know what to watch out for and how to keep our pets safe in the cold. Read on! 

1. Managing Weight Gain in Pets During Winter 

We all tend to gain weight in the winter because we’re indoors more and not as active, on top of all of the holiday treats we’re eating. Pets are the same! Try not to give your pet too many extra treats and reduce meal portions on days when they’re getting a lot. Or, try healthier DIY treats for dogs and cats

2. Preventing Pet Poisoning: Keep Anti-freeze Out of Reach 

Anti-freeze is sweet-tasting and very commonly ingested by pets. Make sure that you keep all bottles up off the floor and out of your pet’s reach. Don’t leave your pet in your garage unattended - he could lick at puddles of it or figure out ways to get at your supply. Keep him out of the area when you’re adding more to your car, and be sure to clean up any spills immediately. 

3. Safeguarding your Pets Against Salt, Snow, and Ice 

Salt and other ice-melting chemicals can irritate and burn your pet’s pads and snow and ice can get trapped in clumps between his toes. One way to protect your pet’s feet is to use booties whenever the pet is outside (they also help to shield against frostbite). If your pet won’t tolerate them, make sure to wipe down and clean your pet’s feet after coming in from any trip outside and be extra diligent about trimming the fur on their feet and inspecting their pads throughout the winter season. 

4. Ensuring a Safe Outside Water Supply 

Swap out all metal bowls for plastic or glass. A pet’s tongue can get stuck on metal during the cold winter months very easily. Additionally, you should change the water much more frequently than you might be used to in order to prevent it from freezing (consider a heated bowl if freezing is a problem). 

If you care for feral cats or other animals, here are even more tips about keeping their food and water from freezing. 

5. Heat Sources: Ensuring Pet Safety 

‘Tis the season to enjoy heat from all sorts of sources--all of them potentially hazardous to pets. Make sure to never leave space heaters or wall units on while you are away--get in the habit of doing a final sweep to turn them off and unplug them before leaving the house.  This stops any potential fires as well as pets getting burned. 

If your pet enjoys the fireplace as much as you do, make sure you always close the screen properly, and that you place his bed far enough away from it. Some pets will still lie practically right on top of it, no matter where you put their beds. For those pets, make sure you check on them and get them to change position periodically--especially if they are long-haired! 

6. Holiday Fare: Pet-Proofing for Winter Celebrations 

The winter season is full of holidays! These holidays mean decorations, gifts, and treats – time to pet-proof your home during the holidays

  • Make sure all decorations are inaccessible to pets--this includes extension cords. 

  • Blow out all candles and turn off and unplug all electrical decorations and lights if you are not home. 

  • If you light a menorah, consider an electrical one instead of real candles to cut even further down on the fire hazard. 

  • If you have a Christmas tree, opt to decorate with garland instead of tinsel, which is extremely dangerous for pets if eaten. It can get wrapped around their intestines in no time, creating a critical medical emergency. 

  • Watch out for holiday plants, like mistletoe, holly, poinsettias, and even the Christmas tree itself. All of these items can cause symptoms from mild mouth irritation to full-blown GI emergencies if ingested. 

  • And, of course, keep all of those holiday treats out of reach and take trash out right away. Many a pet has scaled kitchen counters and tables and ripped through trash bags to get at yummy turkey carcasses, cookies, and anything they probably shouldn’t have. 

7. Minimizing Exposure to Cold: Protecting Your Pet 

Prolonged exposure to the cold, or time outdoors, can lead to arthritis flare-ups and hypothermia. Make sure that pets are outside only as long as absolutely necessary. If your pet has stiffness, add some salmon oil or other fatty, lubricating supplements to his food and talk to your vet about any pain management medications or techniques you can use. 

Bonus: The oil will also help combat winter dry skin and itchiness! 

Never leave an arthritic pet outside alone in the cold, icy weather--he could slip and fall without you even realizing it. When you do take him for walks, go slow.  

If you have even a part-time outdoor pet, ensure that he has adequate and well-maintained shelter. A pet can become very ill or even die in a very short time in cold weather, so make sure you check on him and his shelter every day and make repairs and improvements as soon as you discover the need. 

If you have any indoor-outdoor cats, make sure it isn’t too cold outside for them. If you take care of the occasional stray, make sure they are protected against the cold and have sufficient shelter, as well. Follow Embrace’s tips on how to make a winter feral cat shelter that will help keep your furry friends warm! 

8. Beware of Frozen Lakes: Ensuring Pet Safety in Winter Play 

If your pet loves to play in the snow, that’s awesome! Just make sure you always stay with him and keep him on a leash. It takes mere seconds for a dog to inadvertently wander onto a frozen lake. If it’s only partially frozen, he may fall right through and be gone before you can save him. If it’s totally frozen, he won’t fall through, but he may get to the middle and find he can’t get enough traction to get back to shore. 

9. Carbon Monoxide Poisoning: A Hidden Winter Danger 

More heat means more furnace use and more potential for leaks, leading to carbon monoxide poisoning. Your pets are even more susceptible to this because they are smaller and typically left home alone for hours every day. Some symptoms of carbon monoxide toxicity include red gums, rapid breathing, passing out, or throwing up. Make sure your carbon monoxide detectors are in working order with fresh batteries today! 

Veterinary Exams and Preventive Care: Essential Steps for Pet Winter Safety 

As we navigate the colder months, it's crucial to prioritize veterinary exams and preventive care for our pets. Winter brings its own set of challenges for animals, and a proactive approach is key to ensuring their health and safety. 

Regular Veterinary Check-Ups 

Before winter sets in, schedule a comprehensive veterinary exam for your pet. This check-up is important to assess your pet's overall health and to identify any issues that could be exacerbated by cold weather. Conditions like arthritis can worsen during the winter, and early detection is essential for effective management. 

Vaccinations and Preventive Medications 

Ensure that all vaccinations are up to date. Winter can bring about a host of illnesses, and vaccinations play a crucial role in keeping your pet healthy. Additionally, continue with regular flea, tick, and heartworm preventive medications. While some pests are less active in winter, they can still pose a significant risk to your pet's health. 

Discussing Winter Nutrition and Exercise 

Consult with your veterinarian about your pet's nutritional needs during winter. Pets may require different calorie intake depending on their activity level and the climate they live in. Also, discuss safe exercise options to keep your pet active and prevent winter weight gain. 

Preparing for Winter Ailments 

Talk to your vet about common winter ailments and their signs. Understanding the symptoms of hypothermia, frostbite, and other cold-related issues enables you to act swiftly should any problems arise. 

Mental Health Check 

Just like humans, pets can experience winter blues. Discuss with your veterinarian about ways to keep your pet mentally stimulated and engaged during the long winter months. 

Winter Emergencies 

Emergencies and illnesses can occur unexpectedly, especially in the winter. Having a robust pet insurance plan ensures you're prepared for these unforeseen events. Additionally, consider an optional pet wellness program, which is not insurance, but reimburses you for routine veterinary exams and preventive care—helping you budget for all of those vet checkups, vaccinations, groomings, and more. Investing in both pet insurance and a wellness plan ensures comprehensive coverage for both unexpected emergencies and routine health maintenance. 

A Pet Parent's Winter Guide to Warm Hearts in Cold Weather  

As the winter winds whistle and the snowflakes dance, our journey through pet winter safety draws to a cozy close. Embracing these safety tips, from regular vet visits to mindful preventive care, is a testament to the love we share with our four-legged family members. And with Embrace Pet Insurance and our wellness plans, you're not just preparing for the unexpected – you're weaving a safety net of care and comfort that lasts all season long. 

So, as we venture into the winter wonderland, let's do so with a smile, knowing our pets are as ready as we are. Here's to paw prints in the snow, wagging tails, and the warm glow of knowing we're doing our best for our cherished companions. Stay snug, stay safe, and let's make this winter a beautiful memory for our pets!