While you prepare for the cold-weather season, don't forget that your furry friends need some additional attention to stay safe, cozy and warm, too. There are indoor and outdoor hazards to take note of as we head into winter. Here are a few winter pet safety tips you need to know about in your apartment.
Forty-five degrees is the magic number. If you've got a cat, vets recommend you keep them indoors if it's below 45 degrees Fahrenheit, even if they normally spend a lot of time outside.
Dogs are a slightly different story. Some breeds like Siberian Huskies or St. Bernards are bred to work outdoors in cold weather. Dogs with less fur like vizslas or greyhounds, small breeds, senior dogs and those with a medical condition are more sensitive to cold weather.
Know what your breed can tolerate and keep an eye on whether your pooch seems cold when you're out with him or her — shivering, engaging in pacing and other anxious activity, whining, slowing down, trying to find a warm place to lie down.
It's possible for dogs to get hypothermia, a condition that occurs when a body loses heat faster than it can be replaced. A dog's normal temp is between 99.5 and 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit. Early signs are shivering and lethargy. Get your pet warm as soon as possible. If not treated, hypothermia can be fatal.
And, like humans, dogs also can get frostbite, usually on their paws, ears and tail. Signs include extreme coldness and pain when you touch the affected area, discoloration (blue, gray or pale skin), blisters or blackened skin. Don't try to massage warmth into the areas. Cover your dog in a warm blanket and get to the vet.
You can lose yourself in a rabbit hole of Insta pix of dogs in human clothing. Certainly, they don't need tutus and tiaras, but they do sometimes need a coat or booties.
If you're investing in a coat, get one that's waterproof, has some sort of reflective fabric and fits snugly but not too tight. You don't want it to chafe. Make sure there are no zippers, fasteners or pulls that might irritate your pup or get caught on branches, for example.
Booties can be helpful to protect your pup's paw pads from things he or she might step in like spilled antifreeze or road salt. Boots can also help them gain traction and stop ice and snow from building up between their pads and toes.
If they won't tolerate boots, wash their paws in warm water and dry them when they come inside. (While you're at it, don't forget to dry off their undercarriage to remove any ice, salt or chemicals.) You can also use petroleum jelly or a paw balm (moisturizer) to keep their paws from drying and cracking.
As for cats, other than maybe Garfield, they're not much for jackets. But they do crave warmth. Indoors, if your cat has a windowsill perch, make sure there's no draft. If they have a bed, keep it toasty by placing a heating pad — one made especially for animals — under the bed, or invest in a heated cat bed.
Like their humans, cats and dogs love shiny objects. But ornaments and tinsel are not fun when ingested. Tinsel, glass and plastic baubles can do quite a number on your pet's intestines. Keep in mind, too, that Poinsettias, holly berries and mistletoe can all be toxic if ingested by your pet.
Aside from decorations, holidays mean food — and often guests who may not know what dogs and cats should eat. Keep these out of your pet's reach: chocolate, grapes (raisins, currants) and macadamia nuts can all be toxic to both cats and dogs. The iKibble app offers information on what foods are toxic for dogs as well as the general healthiness of foods.
While you're exercising caution with the weather, remember to exercise their bodies as well. Keep your pets moving to prevent weight gain, which can bring on other complications, as well as depression. Just like humans, animals need to move.
If it's too cold outside, create an indoor playroom or find an indoor gym where your dog can socialize and play with others. There are even indoor pools for dogs, and many apartment buildings have indoor dog runs and other pet amenities.
However you choose to enjoy your pet in winter, err on the side of caution — even if your pet is young, healthy and of the hardiest breed. Just take them out for shorter amounts of time, be aware of your surroundings and warm them up as soon as you get inside. Remember, spring isn't too far behind.