It’s well known that Northern Virginia has inconsistent weather. Some days can be frigid and others can feel like it’s spring in the middle of January! With this list (and our accompanying post about warm weather in a few months!), you’ll be prepared for whatever comes you and your pet’s way this winter!
Here are our top 5 tips to make sure everyone is warm and safe this winter:
- Stay Inside Like people, cats and dogs are susceptible to frostbite and hypothermia. While longer-haired and thick-coated dog breeds are more tolerant of cold weather, no pet should be left outside for long periods in below-freezing weather. You will probably need to shorten your dog’s walks to protect you both from weather-associated health risks. For cats, we recommend keeping them inside during the coldest months of the year and return them to their glorious outdoor cat status once the warmth begins again. Remember, if it’s too cold for you, then it’s probably too cold for your pet.
- Know Your Pet’s Limits (If You Do Take Them Outside) Be aware of your pet’s tolerance for cold weather, and adjust accordingly. Animals with shorter coats are more at risk in cold weather, but anyone can be susceptible. Arthritic and elderly pets may have more difficulty walking on snow and ice and may be more prone to slipping and falling. Pets with chronic illnesses, especially auto-immune diseases, may have a harder time regulating their body temperature and may be more susceptible to problems from temperature extremes. If you need help determining your pet’s temperature limits, consult your veterinarian.
- Prevention Exposure to winter’s dry, cold air and chilly rain, sleet and snow can cause hypothermia, but there are also smaller issues like chapped paws and flaking skin to be concerned about. Exposed skin on noses, ears and paw pads are at risk for frostbite. For this reason, many pets often feel more comfortable wearing a coat or sweater—even during short walks.
- While salting the sidewalks is a preventative for humans, it is a large concern for dogs and other pets during the winter time. Chemicals from rock salt can irritate your pet’s pads, dry their skin, cause lasting damage to their paws, and in the most extreme cases, poison your pet. The main concern is your pet licking it off from their paws after a walk. If you own your home and are in charge of salting the walk in front of your house, make sure to only use pet safe de-icing salt and store it in a safe place. For everyone else and to protect your pet from exposure during walks there are a few options: you can cover their paws with booties, massage petroleum jelly into their pads before heading out, or wipe all paws with a damp towel as soon as you return—even after short walks. If your dog ingests rock salt, call a veterinarian immediately.
- Keep Them Leashed On average, more pets become lost in the winter than any other season. Snowfall can disguise recognizable scents that could normally help them find their way home and bring out more prey for them to chase. Prevent your pets from becoming lost by keeping them leashed on walks. In case you are separated, make sure all of their collars have up-to-date contact information. If your pet is microchipped, make sure your personal information attached is up-to-date and the microchip is active.
- Be Prepared Winter can bring extreme weather that can cause power outages and travel delays. Have an emergency plan and make sure that plan includes your pet! Have an emergency kit with enough food, water, and medication (if needed) to last your pet at least five days. You most likely will never need it, but in the event you do, you’ll be thankful that you thought ahead! A prepared pet-owner is a great pet owner.
- If your time-away is extended due to winter weather, just give us a call! We regularly add on extra pet sitting visits due to flight delays or extended travel times. Even if you are stuck at work for an extra few hours or have a terrible commute due to the weather, let us know what you need and we can help out! You can always request visits through Precise at any time or contact the manager on duty at the number below!