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Your Happy Pets: 7 cold weather tips for cats and dogs

Original Publication Date: January 6, 2014
By C. Sue Furman, Ph.D.

Snow is rare in Victoria, but we do get our share of cold weather.

Even when daytime temperatures are moderate, nighttime temperatures can drop below freezing. Here are seven important tips to safeguard your pets from cold weather hazards.

1. Keep dogs and cats inside. Don't leave your pet outside in the cold for long periods of time. Wind chill makes days colder than actual temperature readings. Bringing pets in during the night and leaving them out during the day is not an option. Extreme temperature changes can increase the risk of infectious diseases.

2. Shelter for your dog. Even long-haired breeds need protection from extreme cold. If your pet is not allowed in the house proper, consider creating an area for it in a corner of the garage or tool shed. Your pet still needs warm blankets, straw or other bedding to snuggle into and stay dry and safe from the cold.

3. Fresh water. You should be sure your pet has a supply of fresh water that is not frozen. Check its water bowl often.

4. Coats and sweaters. Short-haired dogs need extra protection when they go out to walk in the winter cold. Pay attention. If your dog is shivering, tucking its tail and generally looking miserable and you need a coat to be comfortable, your dog probably needs a coat, too. Pet stores have some pretty stylish fashions that are quite warm.

Walk with your dog. Stay with your dog when it goes out for a "bathroom break." If you get cold enough to go inside, it is probably too cold for your pet to stay out any longer. Be especially careful with elderly, arthritic pets. They do not tolerate cold well and become stiff and tender quickly.

6. Don't leave pets in your car. We know that it is not safe to leave pets in a car during the summer. The same holds true for winter. If the car engine is left on, the carbon monoxide will endanger your dog's life. Without heat, the car can quickly become a virtual refrigerator. A pet can suffer hypothermia or even freeze to death.

7. Check for stowaways before starting your car. Cats are very clever about finding warm places, and if left outside, a cat may curl up under your hood. Starting the engine could injure or even kill a cat. Bang on your hood a few times before starting your car and wait a bit to give a stowaway a chance to escape.

These are just a few tips to optimize your pet's comfort and well-being. Hope you and your pets stay warm and cozy this winter.

Sue Furman, Ph.D, has published two books and a DVD on canine massage and teaches classes in pet massage, acupressure, first aid and CPR. See her schedule and submit questions at