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by Diana Guerrero
Different seasons bring different concerns for all pets. The cold weather air, dampness, and other challenges complicate life for all the different species and especially those pampered pets.

Here is a partial listing of tips and considerations:


If your animals go outside frequently, don't leave them outside for long periods of time in cold weather. The wind outside or drafts inside can be a challenge and make things colder than the thermometer says. You want to watch all pets carefully to make sure they are comfortable and physically feel warm.


If animals are allowed to be outside during extreme (or less than extreme) weather or are kept outside for a while, be sure to provide them with adequate shelter. The proper types of shelters will keep your animal warm, dry, and protected from breezes or drafts. Sweaters or blankets may be good additions to have an animal wear or to cover part of a cage to conserve heat.


Remember that different floor materials may conduct cold. Cement, brick, tile, and linoleum floors may become extremely cold. Padding or temporary flooring can help, or even throw rugs or blankets. Restaurant pads, used in work areas of busy diners, can be thrown down as good insulation too.

When outside, extra care needs to be taken with your pets. Be careful when walking or playing since surfaces could be slick. Slipping could seriously injure your pet or you. Also watch out for frozen water or areas such as streams, ponds, lakes, or rivers where your animal could fall through the ice.


Clean animals are warm animals. Hair, feathers and fur insulates and the cleaner it is; the better job it does. Groom your animals regularly and make sure they are completely dry before they are let outside. Once in, make sure that you use a towel or a blow dryer to dry off your pet. Care must be taken with using heat so use low settings.

Pet birds should never be exposed to drastic drops in temperatures. Even during good weather many people, after giving their bird a bath, will make the mistake of using heat (blow dryer) on birds. This is not recommended since doing this dries out the oil in the feathers and they lose the repelling quality turning the feathers blackish.


On all animals, the ears, tail, and feet, and limbs need to be checked upon coming in from outside. Preventative care must be taken to prevent frostbite. Extra care of feet is a good idea.

There are some products on the market to help insulate and protect both paws and hooves. Lubricants can restore condition on those that are cracked and dry.

Trimming some of the excess hair, from the bottom of footpads, that could get wet and freeze or accumulate snow is a good idea. Extra hair can be good insulation but feet need to be dried and checked regular after trips outside. Check the paws for cracked or cut pads. Rock salt, used to melt ice in many places, can irritate footpads. Be sure to rinse and dry your pet's feet after they come in. Horse hooves should be kept protected, and checked regularly.


Since it takes more energy in the winter to keep the body temperature regulated it is sometimes necessary to increase the calories or food quantity of those pets. This is especially true for pets that are very active or that remain outside throughout the cold weather. Notice if your pet is dropping or gaining weight and always consult with your Veterinarian regarding these things.

Provide plenty of fresh water and make sure you check the water supply. Pipes can freeze just as water-bowls can. There are some special bowls on the market that keep ice from building up in the bowls and heat tape can help with frozen pipes. Dehydration can be a problem during this time too, so don't think that snow can be a substitute for water!



Do not keep animals in the weather exposed back area of a pick-up truck or inside the car alone with the engine running. Wind chill will freeze your animal to the bone and carbon monoxide could kill your pet very swiftly. Also, take care not to leave any anti-freeze out. Be aware that anti-freeze can collect on driveways and roads, and is highly poisonous. Apparently it smells and tastes good to animals but it can be lethal. You might want to start using environmentally safe and animal friendly (non-toxic) substitutes.

Be very careful when using additional heat sources. Fireplaces and portable heaters can severely burn animals. Be sure fireplaces are screened, keep the portable heaters out of reach, and make sure there is plenty of ventilation with older heat sources.


Holiday hazards are equally challenging and sometimes downright dangerous. The winter season is full of holiday festivities and therefore the holidays are important times to take special precautions for the health and safety of pets. It is a good idea to give special consideration towards animals that you are thinking of bringing into the home at this time too.

Plants (holly, mistletoe, poinsettia etc.,) are poisonous to pets. Other hazards include glass ornaments, edible ornaments, electrical cords, heated decorative bulbs, hooks, tinsel, and a wide variety of other decorating items. Make sure they are kept out of reach or in places your animals cannot get to them. Other hazards include chocolate, alcohol, and caffeine which can make your animals very ill or, in some cases, kill them.

Other problems can include the sharp needles from the Christmas tree which can cause intestinal problems or worse. Pets may climb, or knock the tree over, so it may be best to keep the tree in a room that can be blocked off. Another option would be to keep the tree surrounded with a mini barrier (helps with small kids too!) such as baby gates or even a large playpen or portable kennel fence (safely decorated this can look nice). Candles are another hazard, not only for burns, but for fire hazards!

Animals will find any holiday things appealing and tempting to play with or explore. Shock, electrocution, ingesting odd objects, knocking over things to get at something, burns, broken glass, and toxic plants or painted items can wreck havoc on your pet by injuring or killing them and the efforts to save them can be costly both emotionally and financially. Preventing the hazards by taking precautions is the best cure.


Obtaining an animal during any time requires sensitivity, good judgment, and research since they are living, feeling and emotional beings. Animals deserve careful consideration and time devoted to the search for them and integration into the home.

The holiday season is one of the worst times to consider obtaining a pet. It is not a good time to introduce a pet into your family. There are numerous hazards, distractions and other activities which provide a horrible background to obtain a new animal in. Getting an animal during these most commercial of times supports irresponsibly bred animals and perhaps a less than cherished view of a living creature.

New animals require quality attention and a stable environment, which most holiday season celebrations do not permit. Also, an animal is not a toy or gift that can be returned or tossed aside when it loses it's appeal. Too many animals end up abused, dead, or in shelters around the holidays, so think long and hard about the temptation to obtain one during this time.

Since it is the thought that counts, how about buying all the related supplies related to the pet, wrapping it up and presenting it as the symbol of the pet promised? Make the search a family project for after the holidays. This will teach proper stewardship, compassion, and show an immense amount of love and responsibility while creating anticipation and a greater desire for the cherished pet.

Remember: Using common sense and good judgment will make the winter and holiday season associated with it much safer and happier to all.