Staying Warm and Safe this Winter

The changing leaves, pumpkins, sweaters, and turning on the heat are all classic signs that fall is upon us. Now, raise your hand if you are excited! Mine was raised as soon as pumpkins were mentioned! My dogs and cats have been equally if not more excited then I have been. Trying to get my dogs to come inside has been a nuisance as they want to spend all day outside taking in the fresh air. My cats, which are all indoors only, have fought with me when it comes time to close the windows at night. In their defense though is there anything better than taking a nap in the fresh cooler temps?
Unfortunately, fall will turn into winter here in the low country and animals do not have the same enthusiasm about being outdoors as they do now. Lower temperatures mean higher chances of frost bite on paws, illnesses and danger of life for outdoor pets. If you have an outside only pet or take your pets outside for potty breaks or walks it is important that you provide them with the right products to keep them warm, safe and happy.

Outdoor Shelters

For outdoor pets, a shelter where they can go to warm up and be protected from harsh elements is essential. Many outdoor dogs already have dog houses as shelter. Cats also need a cat house where they can go to get away from the cold. Even though a dog/cat house will protect them from wind, rain and the possibility of snow, it will not provide them with much heat. In the past blog from this summer we talked about A/C units for dog houses. Depending on the model some of these are both A/C and heater units. For the ones that are not, investing in a heater will provide you with relief that your dog or cat is warm and not in danger of the cold on those brutal winter nights. Here is my favorite heater Click here to view heater on Amazon.com. This heater is great for different size shelters and is designed to protect the pet from being burned while providing them with a level of heat that is perfect for their coat thickness. It is important to avoid making a shelter so warm that the pet has to go in and out to cool off. If the weather is too rough for the pet to leave the shelter, then they can be in another danger zone. To find the right temperature start off on the lowest setting and see how the pet reacts with it. Are they cold to the touch or shivering? If so, try the next level but if you notice they are panting or not using the shelter at a higher level turn it back down and add blankets or a bed to their shelter to help composite their warmth.

Protective Gear

Just like we need protective gear to go outside in the cold so do our pets. Stores are already showcasing jackets and sweaters for dogs. You may think your dog doesn’t need a coat for walks but if they do not have long thick fur then you should consider taking them to the store for a little coat shopping. When picking out a coat for your dog do not solely do so on what looks manly, girlie or has the best designs. Yes, this is fun for us, but these choices may not be the best body fit for your dog. A coat should be snug around them in the back, legs, chest and belly with enough room where they are not constricted while walking. Too big of a coat is only going to trap the cold underneath it and let their body heat escape. For some of us we will come across the issue of only 3 of the body parts mentioned before being the perfect size and the other one is too big. This is more common for dogs that do not fit the “standard” dog body size. I have been here with 3 of my dogs. If only they made coats designed for each breed, hmm. Anyways, if this happens do not fear, because these can be adjusted by a seamstress. At home, adjust the coat to where you need the Velcro to really be and put tape to show the curves and flow you need it to be adjusted to. A seamstress will be able to add Velcro to this area, so you can pull the jacket snug where it was once loose. Although you may have to pay for a jacket then have it adjusted your dog will be extremely grateful. For outdoor pets it is not recommended to provide them with a 24/7 coat, especially if they have a heater, as they can get heat stroke with and without a heater.

Frost bite is very common each year in veterinary offices on dog paws. The pads of a dog’s paw are equivalent to our feet in relation of standing on a hot or cold surface. If we went outside barefoot in the cold, we would indeed receive frost bite and the same is true for dogs. Dog booties are highly recommended for dogs that are solely outside and those who go on walks or like to run around outside as it can only take minutes for dog’s paws to receive frost bite. When buying booties take a measurement of the bottom of their foot from back to front. You can also print out many templates online that will tell you what size booties you need which is the best way to measure. Booties need to be as close to a perfect fit as possible to make sure they do not slip around and feel as natural as possible to your dog when walking. You will probably get some good laughs at first seeing your dog walk in them but over a few days they will get the hang of it and will be protected from cold surfaces. Fabric booties, NOT rubber ones, can also be left on at all times for outdoor dogs!

Water Heater

Providing water to outside pets can be a challenge in the winter. If the water is too cold animals are not as likely to drink enough to keep them hydrated and can also lead to shock of the organs. You may ask if having a heated shelter with water inside is enough to keep the water at a reasonable temperate? Even though this MAY keep the water at a reasonable temperature it is not recommended as a safe solution. Instead, buying a heated bowl is the safest way to ensure safe drinking water. Heated bowls are designed to keep the water at above freezing temperature and automatically turn on and off, so the water stays at a safe consumption temperature. They are reasonably priced making them an easy product to purchase for outdoor pets.

Warm and Toasty Winter

       Keeping your outdoor pets warm this winter is very affordable with costs from $100-$200 for everything dogs would need. For dogs that go on walks the cost is around $30-70 to protect them from harsh surfaces and the chilly weather. Cats do not need as much winter care other than a heated shelter and safe drinking water. It is not recommended to put jackets or sweaters on animals that are outside only, even if just for the day or nights. Do not cover cat’s paws either as they use their claws for defense, hunting and climbing. Of course, if you are able to it is recommended to bring outdoor pets inside in harsh weather. For those that cannot we can’t recommend enough to shop early for their shelters. These shelters are also great for other outdoor critters that you may have! We hope that you and your fur babies enjoy the rest of fall and have a safe warm winter.

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