Baby, It’s Cold Outside, or Helping Your Animals Survive Winter

Winter weather may be an excuse to break out the hot cocoa and snowman kit, but as animal owners, we have extra responsibilities for keeping our four-legged friends as safe as possible. It might be cold outside, and you might have some animals out in that weather. (But not the dog here. He decided to stay indoors with the kids to play Chutes and Ladder and Candy Land!)

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Snow Bound Hound
–photo credit Gwynn Tobel


Water, Water Everywhere (and Maybe an Extra Snack)

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Clean Hands, Clean Heart
–photo credit Gwynn Tobel

Regardless of what type of animal you have, ready access to clean, ice-free water is of vital importance. Just like those eight glasses a day that you should be drinking, water helps to keep animals’ skin healthy, internal organs functioning properly, and dehydration at bay.

  • For indoor pets such as cats and dogs, simply do as you normally would: make certain that water bowl is clean and that fresh water is always available.
  • For outdoor animals, particularly horses and cattle, you may need to break ice in water troughs and water buckets, haul hot water, or break paths to viable water sources.
  • During particularly brutal weather, consider feeding a bit extra. Cattle and horses can do with some extra fodder to provide calories to help withstand cold snaps. It’s also easier to keep an eye on pasture animals as they come up to the feed truck. This also applies to barn cats our outside dogs. Put some extra food and maybe some warm milk out for them, and you’ll have friends for life.

Bundle Up!

Winter jackets aren’t just for tiny dogs with fashion sense–they’re for any animal that does not have a winter coat to help them stave off winter.

  • For those in colder climates, I’m hopeful that you’ve already moved your cattle to their more sheltered, winter pastures in an effort to avoid a repeat of this year’s early blizzard. While cattle have grown thicker coats, more sheltered pastures provide much-needed protection from wind and blizzards.
  • If your horse is accustomed to being in a barn, consider adding a second heavy winter horse blanket and a hood as the temperatures drop. Be certain that your horse is warm but not sweating profusely under the blankets. Also, don’t forget to clean your horse’s feet thoroughly, using a hoof pick to remove packed in ice and snow. This will make it easier for them to walk to water.
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Mulish Artwork, or the Ornamental OP
–photo credit Susan Knighton


Please Don’t Pass the Salt

Salting driveways, sidewalks, and roads may make for easier walking and driving, but it is not good for cats and dogs. Not only can salt burn the foot pads of dogs and cats, it can make them sick if the licks the salt off their feet.

  • If you live in urban areas where salt is in wide use on streets and sidewalks, wipe your dog or cat’s feet off thoroughly after every walk to reduce the likelihood of ingestion. Bonus–you’ll have fewer wet and slushy pawprints roaming through your house.
  • Instead of using salt or chemical de-icing solutions, try laying down sand or kitty litter. It will be easier for you to make it up your walk but without the harmful side effects to your dog or cat.
  • If you have horses, make certain to clean their feet thoroughly, using a hoof pick to remove packed in ice and snow.

And lastly, don’t forget that antifreeze is toxic! If you suspect that your animal has ingested antifreeze, contact your veterinarian immediately.

Winter can and should be enjoyed, and with a little planning and foresight, it can be.


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Ruby, Pearl, and Matti Enjoy the Snow
–photo credit Marilyn Randall

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