Nine winter tips for keeping your pet safe this holiday season

With fall upon us and the temperatures dropping, there are many tasks to do before the winter months and holiday season. While this time of year can be great fun for your pet, be sure your winter habits don’t leave them out in the cold. During this chilly, busy season, keep pets healthy and happy by following these important safety tips:

Don’t Leave Them Out in The Cold. Your pet might enjoy the great outdoors, but when temperatures drop they need a comfortable place to stay warm and dry. Besides bathroom breaks and daily exercise, it’s best to keep your pet safe and toasty inside your home.

Bundle Up. Not all dogs were born with lush fur coats that keep off the winter chill. Breeds with very short fur like Chihuahuas, boxers and greyhounds may have a hard time keeping warm, making even brief walks uncomfortable. Consider purchasing a doggie-style sweater or coat to keep your short-haired pooch protected when outside. A good rule of thumb is to feel the tips of your animal’s ears. Like human feet, if they are much colder than normal, your pet may be uncomfortable.

Keep Them Close. Ice, sleet and snow make it more difficult for animals to track a scent and find their way home if they get lost. Make sure your pet always wears an ID tag and has a microchip registered with a national database, so he can be easily returned. If you find a lost or stray pet, please call your local animal control or nearest animal shelter.

Wipe Those Paws. Snow, ice and sleet can become impacted in paws making them painful or even bleed, and furry legs and bellies will often become wet and chilly. When coming in from the great outdoors, be sure to wipe your pet dry.. This extra TLC will also ensure salt and other potentially dangerous residue – like anti-freeze – won’t be ingested.

Practice Car Safety. Just like in the summer heat, your car is not a safe place for any animal in cold temperatures. Don’t ever leave them in your car unattended. Your vehicle can become a freezer in the winter, holding in the cold and potentially causing your pet to freeze to death.

Watch Out for Antifreeze. Pets think antifreeze tastes great, but it is a lethal poison for dogs and cats. Even a small amount can kill. So be cautious about what your pet may be lapping up from streets and driveways, and be sure to thoroughly clean up any spills from your vehicle. If you think your pet has ingested antifreeze or any other harmful chemical, call a veterinarian immediately.

Check Under the Hood. Cats and other small animals may try to find warmth in your car engine during the winter. To avoid hurting your cat or other small animal, make sure to bang on your car’s hood to scare the animal away before starting the engine.

Ensure Holiday Decorations are Secure. Ornaments, tinsel, and other holiday flourishes can look like tantalizing toys to your pets. Secure decorations large and small to ensure your curious critters don’t chew or swallow items that might be dangerous. Decorative holiday treats may be another source of danger. Keep holiday cookies, candy bowls, and other goods well out of reach.

Be Careful With Holiday Plants. Certain plants commonly seen during the holidays can upset a pet’s stomach or worse – make them really sick. Sharp pine needles from Christmas trees can be dangeorus if ingested. Poinsettia plants, mistletoe, holly and lillies are harmful or poisonous to dogs and cats and should be kept out of reach.

Help support the Internatinal Fund for Animal Welfare effort to save animals in crisis around the world by participating in our Holiday Giving program.

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Cynthia Milburn, Director, Animal Welfare Outreach & Education
Senior Advisor, Policy Development
Gail A'Brunzo, Manager, Wildlife Rescue
Manager, Wildlife Rescue
Jan Hannah, Campaign Manager, Northern Dogs Project
Campaign Manager, Northern Dogs Project
Kate Nattrass Atema, Program Director, Community Animal Welfare
Program Director, Community Animal Welfare
Shannon Walajtys
Manager, Animal Rescue-Disasters