The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) recommends the following tips to keep your animal companions safe and sound:
Keep cats inside! Cats have a very difficult time outdoors, where they are susceptible to frostbite and freezing, can become lost or stolen, or worse still, be injured or killed. Cats who are allowed to stray are also exposed to fatal infectious diseases, including rabies.
During the winter, outdoor cats sometimes choose to sleep under the hoods of vehicles, where it is warmer. When the motor is started, the cat can be injured or killed in the fan belt. To prevent this, bang loudly on the hood of your vehicle and wait a few seconds before starting the engine, to startle the cat and give it a chance to move along.
When walking your dog, never let it off the leash on snow or ice, especially during a snowstorm. Dogs frequently lose their scent in snow and ice and can easily become lost. More dogs are lost during the winter then during any other season!
Thoroughly wipe off your dog’s legs and stomach when it comes in out of the rain, snow or ice. Pay special attention to the sensitive paw pads, which may bleed from snow or ice encrusted in them. Remember too that salt, antifreeze or other chemicals could make your dog ill if it ingests them while licking its paws.
If you own a short-haired dog, consider purchasing a warm coat or sweater. Choose one with a high collar or turtleneck that covers the dog from the base of its tail on top and to the belly underneath. While some may view a dog sweater as a luxury, it is a necessary for many dogs.
Never leave your dog or cat alone in a vehicle during cold weather, as the car or truck can act like a refrigerator, holding in the cold, with the potential of your animal freezing to death.
If your canine friend is sensitive to the cold due to age, illness, or breed type, ensure that it is outdoors only long enough to relieve itself.
Puppies have not developed a tolerance for the cold as well as adult dogs and may be difficult to housebreak during the winter. If it is necessary, paper-train your puppy inside until he appears to be acclimated to the weather.
If your dog spends a lot of time engaged in outdoor activities, increase his supply of food, particularly protein, to keep his fur thick and healthy.
Antifreeze, even in very small doses, is a lethal poison for dogs and cats, and because of its sweet taste, animals are attracted to it. Be sure to thoroughly clean up any spills from your vehicle. To prevent accidental poisonings, animal-friendly products that contain propylene glycol rather then the traditional products containing ethylene glycol are suggested. Contact your veterinarian or the National Animal Poison Control Center (ASPCA/NAPCC) immediately if you suspect your animal has been poisoned.
Never shave your dog down to the skin in winter. Leave the coat in a longer style, which provides more warmth. Remember that such a style will require more frequent brushing due to dry winter air and static electricity. When you bathe your dog, make sure it is completely dry before you take it out for a walk.
Make sure your companion animal has a warm place to sleep far away from all drafts and off the floor, such as in a dog or cat bed or basket with a warm blanket or pillow in it.