When the frigid winter months arrive, humans bundle up in extra layers of coats, boots, scarves, and hats. But what are pets to do to be comfortable in the cold? Here are some suggestions for caring for pets when the temperatures drop.

Winter Pet Care Tips

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals offers ten tips for caring for pets during winter months. The tips include:

- Keep dogs indoors to protect them from freezing.

- Don’t let dogs off the leash in snow or ice. Dogs can lose their scent and become lost, especially during a snowstorm.

- After walking the dog on snow or ice, wipe off his legs and stomach to get rid of salt, antifreeze or other snow-removal chemicals. The dog could ingest these dangerous substances while licking his paws.

- Allow the dog’s coat to grow longer in the winter to provide warmth. When bathing the dog in winter months, be sure to completely dry the coat before he goes out for a walk. If the dog has short hair, get a dog coat or sweater for him to wear on walks.

- Don’t leave dogs alone in a car during cold weather. The animal could freeze to death.

- Puppies don’t handle the cold weather as well as adult dogs, so it might be challenging to housebreak a puppy during winter months. Paper-training puppies inside could be an option during cold weather.

- For dogs that spend a lot of time outdoors, increase their food, especially protein.

- Don’t forget that antifreeze is poison for dogs. Clean up any spills from vehicles and choose products that contain propylene glycol instead of ethylene glycol.

- Provide a warm bed for dogs, away from cool drafts.

Outdoor Dog House

For outdoor dogs, the Humane Society of the United States recommends a dry, draft-free house. The house needs to be big enough for the dog to sit and lie down in, but small enough that it holds the dog’s body heat. Be sure the floor of the outdoor dog house is raised a few inches off the ground and covered with cedar shavings, blanket strips, or straw to make the dog house bed. Check the bedding regularly to make sure that it has not gotten wet. To protect the outdoor dog from the effects of wind, the house should be positioned facing away from the wind and the door flap made of heavy waterproof fabric or plastic. It’s good to remember that pets need exercise, but if the temperature drops below freezing, they should not be left outdoors for extended periods of time.

Pet Water Dish

It is also important to check the pet’s outdoor water dish to be sure that the water is fresh and has not frozen. Plastic bowls are better for water and food, because a pet’s tongue might stick to the metal in extreme temperatures.

Even though pets might appear to be safe with because of their coats, they need a little help from their human friends to make it safely through the cold winter months.