Tips to keep pets safe this winter

A photo of a dog in snow
A dog playing in the snow. Remember, dogs with longer fur may need help getting snow and ice chunks free! Photo by mwalker973 / Getty Images

Seeing a puppy barrel through fresh snow, or an indoor cat trying to chase the snowflakes as they pass a frosty window are among the best parts of winter. But the cold weather also brings risks to our non-human companions.

The Fur-Bearers have assembled this simple list of tips to help keep you and your furry (or scaley/feathery) family safe through the winter. Are we missing any? Tag us on social media to let us know!

  1. Paw protection. Even the mighty huskies and malamutes, bred for hundreds of generations to thrive in the snow and cold, need some extra care for their paws from time to time. Check your pup’s paws routinely when weather gets cold to see if there are cracks or sores. If you live in an urban area or walk on salt, sand or brine-treated roads, consider a balm or boots to protect the pads and between digits of your dog’s paws.
  2. Off-leash dangers. Dogs deserve a chance to run and play, but we have to consider the risks posed to them and others when we give them this space. Dogs off leash can disturb wildlife, including animals who will defend themselves against a predator (a dog) or chase them back to their person (you). Across Canada, trapping season is open, and there are no requirements to post signage when traps are out. Tragically, numerous dogs are injured or killed by unmarked traps every year. While The Fur-Bearers pushes hard to make change on this front, it’s important to utilize designated off-leash zones or inquire to your local Fish and Wildlife office about active trapping in the area.
  3. Catios and upping play time. If your cat is used to some supervised or leashed outdoor time, winter could be a boring time of year. However, an enclosed catio is a way to let them outside in a limited space if it’s not too cold. Learn more about building catios here! If the weather is too cold, consider getting some new toys for your feline friends. Engaging their predatory instincts through play is an important part of stimulation for cats, and simple crinkly, bouncing or jittery toys can provide hours of fun and engagement.
  4. Extra insulation. If you have pets that like to nest, or are kept in an enclosure, ensure they have extra insulation to keep themselves warm. As weather cools, humans often add a layer of clothing in addition to turning on heat. Give your gerbils, hamsters or other small animal some extra insulation or nesting material to help them get an ugly holiday sweater of their own, or consider repositioning their enclosure so it gets some extra warmth.
  5. It gets cold, even if they don’t think it does. Some dogs are like kids building a snow fort: they just don’t feel the cold because they’re so excited and engaged. For dogs (and kids) like that, it’s important to keep an eye on them and set some boundaries. Just because a Labrador wants to lay in the snow and keep an eye on the squirrels (they’re obviously up to no good), doesn’t mean they won’t be negatively impacted by the temperature. A winter coat as applicable, limited outdoor time and following the winter advice of your local animal rescue or SPCA is always advised.

There are many more tips that can be applied for pet lovers this winter, and we’d love to hear from you! Tag us on social media @furbearers on Twitter, @furbearers on Instagram, or on Facebook with the tips you like to pass around to family and friends to keep pets safe. Let’s make this winter a wonderland for all our families!

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Established in 1953, The Fur-Bearers is a charitable, non-partisan organization whose goals are to end the commercial fur trade and promote solutions for wildlife coexistence in communities. Your donation is tax-deductible. Charitable registration number: 130006125RR0002

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