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Cold weather rules! (But that’s only if you’re able to put on your own coat). For our animals, we need cold weather RULES – a checklist to keep them safe when the temperatures dip.

Gracie walking outside in her coat.Small animals especially can lose body heat quickly when they are exposed to the elements. Invest in a pet sweater and limit time outdoors. Long-haired breeds can get snow packed in their fur, make sure you use a warm towel to remove the snow.

“Extreme weather affects animals in ways similar to people,” says Dr. Shreiber. “If you need extra protection from the cold, your cats, dogs and horses will, too.”

To start, keep your pets warm, dry and inside when the weather is cold. But try to keep them active, too, even if your daily walks are shorter. Too often, our pets, like their owners are prone to putting on ‘winter weight.’

Unsure if your pet has been affected by the cold? Look for shivering, lethargy, huddling away from the wind, or uncertainty of movement. Bring your pets indoors and monitor the wind chill factor, which can become dangerous quickly and lead to frostbite and hypothermia. When walking your pets, watch for ice, which can be tricky for dogs to navigate and irritate their paw pads. Keep their feet dry, clean and free of salt and ice melt. While long walks in moderate spring and autumn temperatures may be routine, shorter more frequent walks may be better in extreme cold or hot temperatures. Be aware and check under your car in case a cold cat has curled up for warmth from the engine. If you keep water outside for your pets, make sure it isn’t frozen.Gracie getting ready to go outside in the cold.

“Common sense approaches work best when it comes to protecting our animals in cold weather,” says Dr. Shreiber. “Smaller dog breeds require additional protection from wind and cold. We need to take extra care with our dogs and cats regarding ice, salt melt and exposure to the elements.”