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How to Take Care of Your Pets in the Cold

January 8, 2015
Golden Doodle dog in the snow wearing a red hat and scarf

We may live in Georgia, but that doesn’t mean we have 90-degree weather year round. We are no strangers to temperatures below freezing, especially in North Georgia.

During cold times, it’s important to be conscious of proper safety tips you might not think of when it’s warm, such as driving or cooking without power. Make sure those in your household are properly equipped for the cold weather — including your pets.

Animals may have fur, but they are still at risk for hypothermia and frostbite (especially with their exposed noses, ears and paw pads). According to the Humane Society, neglecting an animal you own is considered a misdemeanor in all 50 states, Georgia included.

How to Keep Pets Safe

The best advice we can give is: bring your pets inside. This shields them from not only the cold but it also keeps them dry and out of the wind. Wet, cold wind does not mix well with our domesticated pets.

If bringing your pet inside the house is not doable, the next best thing is to have some sort of dry, wind-resistant shelter. The Humane Society recommends something that is big enough for the animal to sit, stand and lie down yet small enough to trap their body heat. Try to raise the floor off the ground and cover it with straw. Then cover the doorway with burlap or plastic — something waterproof.

Keep in mind that in the winter, your pets will need more food and water than normal. With higher metabolisms using more and more energy to stay warm, your pets will need plenty of food and water. Try to use plastic bowls rather than metal ones so their tongues won’t get stuck. Also, be sure to check their water bowls periodically to make sure the water isn't frozen.

Salt and Antifreeze

Salt scattered on the roads does wonders for us transportation-wise. However, it can be damaging to your pets. After walking on melted snow or ice, be sure to wipe all their paws with a damp towel. Otherwise they may lick their paws irritating their tongue and mouth.

Antifreeze allures many pets with its sweet taste, but it is extremely dangerous. Be sure to thoroughly clean all spills to prevent a medical disaster.

But I don’t have any pets…

Even if you don't have a pet, you still need to be aware of those around you. For example, the warm engines of parked cars provide perfect sleeping quarters for small wildlife and outside pets. Try banging your car’s hood a few times each morning before starting your engine.

If you have children, make sure they are aware of these safety tips too. Kids.gov provides valuable information for pet safety during the winter months. Lastly, if there is a natural disaster, keep your pets in mind as you make proper preparations. Check in with FEMA for more detailed information about creating a Ready Kit for your pets.

About the Author

Bethany McDaniel is the Interactive Web Content Manager for GeorgiaGov. She graduated from Berry College in Rome, GA with degrees in Visual Communication and History.