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Helpful Ways to Care for Your Pets in Winter Weather

By PetcoBlogger on Aug. 24, 2017

When a winter storm hits, our pets need special care and attention just like we do. Dogs and cats can quickly suffer from frostbite or even hypothermia in frigid weather. If a storm is accompanied by a power outage, there are precautions that should be taken for aquatic life and small, aging or invalid pets. We have a few tips to help you care for your pet during a winter storm. Whether you have a dog, cat, rabbit or iguana, follow these handling tips while caring for your pet during extreme weather conditions.

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If there's an evacuation, this blog contains a list of what you'll need to take with you.

What to Do at Home

Dogs

    • Need to take your dog outside to potty? Learn more about winter concerns for dogs.
    • Learn why dogs need paw protection in winter weather.
    • Can't let your dog outside to potty? A well-trained dog could be shy to use your house to relieve himself. However, if you cannot let your dog outside, set up potty pads in a designated area and then use your potty cues (get busy! or go potty!) to encourage your pet to relieve himself in this area. You can choose from a variety of indoor potty training systems, such as a Potty Patch or Pet Loo. Praise your dog every time he is successful, as he will likely be confused at first. Let your dog outside as soon as the weather improves and it is safe to get back on your regular bathroom schedule.snow man building with dogs.jpg

Cats

  • Outdoor cats. Have a cat that goes outdoors? During extreme weather conditions, let them in the garage or in a weather-protected area. Have a cat kennel, comfy bed or cardboard box and blankets available for them to burrow in. Also have fresh water and food available. Try not to leave the food on the cold floors. Bang on the hood of your car before starting it; outdoor cats are known to burrow under car hoods in cold weather.
  • Feral cats. Know of a feral cat community in your area? Leave some cardboard boxes filled with blankets for them to burrow in. Learn more about how to help feral cats.
  • Get more winter holiday safety tips for your cat.

Small Animals and Birds

  • Keep your pets warm. Move birds and small animals such as hamsters, gerbils, rats and mice to the warmest areas of the house.
  • Move all habitats off the floor and away from exterior walls or drafty areas. Cover habitats and aquariums with blankets (but provide an opening for ventilation). 
  • Provide an ample supply of extra bedding that can add warmth during a cold-weather power outage. Add an additional burrow or hiding spot for smaller animals.
  • Keep pets away from space heaters and candles. Avoid exposing any pets, especially birds, to smoke from any fireplaces, candles or lamps that might be used to heat your house. Smoke can irritate your bird's respiratory system. Similarly, if you plan to use any type of space heater, do not place any pet too closely to it, and be sure not to use any heater with parts that are coated with Teflon or a similar substance--the fumes can be harmful to birds.   
  • In the event of a temporary power outage, your pet will likely be unaffected by the loss of electricity. But if the outage is of significant duration and occurs during a period of extreme heat or cold, you'll need to take steps to ensure that your pet stays safe and comfortable. 
  • Raed these winter holiday safety tips for ferrets.

Reptiles

  • Keep your pets warm. Move reptiles to the warmest areas of the house.
  • Move all habitats off the floor and away from exterior walls or drafty areas. Cover habitats and aquariums with blankets (but provide an opening for ventilation).
  • Keeping your reptile warm in extreme weather may take some additional work. Here's what to do:
    • Use hand warmers. Chemical heat packs are an excellent and inexpensive way to provide quick heat to your reptile. Just be sure not to allow these hand warmers to come into direct contact with your reptile. If the power outage is expected to be of short duration, these warmers can be an ideal solution. Plan ahead and have a supply of them on hand--ideally enough to last several days. Look on the packaging to determine how long the warmer last; some will only provide heat for a few hours, but other varieties will continue to function for up to an entire day. Please note: Hand warmers are only capable of warming a small area, so you'll probably want to move your pet to a small enclosure (such as their portable carrier) during the power outage in order to create a smaller space for the chemical warmer to heat.
    • Warm up with water bottles. It's also possible to warm your reptile by filling a plastic milk container and placing it in their habitat. You can heat water by placing it in a pot or other vessel on a BBQ grill. Be sure to wrap the milk container or water bottle in a small towel to prevent your reptile from coming into close contact with water that is too warm.
    • Limit feeding of reptiles when they're cold. If you know your reptile is going to be exposed to cooler-than-usual temperatures for a day or two, be sure to avoid feeding them during that time. Reptiles require warmth to properly digest their food, and it is better for a reptile to wait out the cooler temperatures on an empty stomach than to have undigested food inside them.
    • Snuggle up. If your reptile is fond of being handled, you can quickly warm him up by holding him close. Be sure not to put him near your face and always wash your hands after handling him. You can also put them inside a pillowcase and then in your lap for extra warmth (pillowcases can be used for transporting your reptile if necessary, as well). Put on a movie and warm your pet while you relax together. 
    • Go to our Knowledge Base Article to learn more info from the community.
    • Read more about Reptile emergency preparedness.

Fish and other Aquatic Life
Being prepared is the best way to ensure the safety of your aquarium. In the event of a power outage, follow these steps:

  • Keep your fish warm. If possible, move aquarium to the warmest areas of the house.
  • Move any bowls or aquariums off the floor and away from exterior walls or drafty areas. Cover aquariums with blankets (but provide an opening for ventilation).
  • Avoid oxygen depletion. The most common events that begin to occur without power to your aquarium are oxygen depletion, water temperature variation and ammonia buildup.
    • Aquatic life still consume oxygen even if the oxygen isn't being replaced, which leads to oxygen depletion. That means the aquatic life slowly use up what oxygen is left in the tank. Due to changes in water temperature, your aquatic life can easily become stressed, which in turn puts them at risk for opportunistic disease-causing agents. 
  • Get backup systems in place. Have an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) backup on hand. It is available at many office supply stores. It will supply the necessary power through a battery supply, starting the moment it detects an interruption in the current that flows through the outlet.
    • For shorter outages, keep a spare battery-operated air pump on hand, and a good supply of batteries. The air pump will provide additional oxygen and water movement until the power comes back on. If your power is out for more than 5 hours, you should complete a 25% water change to help keep water quality within safe parameters. 
  • If you do not have a backup source, wrap your tank with a blanket, using caution not to cover the top of it or complete a small water change to add warm water to your aquarium. Before you add water, make sure that it is dechlorinated. 
    • During an outage. It's a good thing to remember that your aquatic life can go a few days without food. Feeding during an outage will increase the activity level of the fish and increase the waste activity as well, causing an accelerated loss of oxygen and causing ammonia and nitrites to build up faster in the water.
    • Raed more tips about fish emergency preparedness.

You can buy ready-made evacuation kits for dogs or for cats, or you can prepare your own personalized evacuation kit.

Learn more about how to prepare for a storm.

Have some fun in the winter with your dog.

Get more tips on caring for your pet during a winter storm from the American Red Cross, the American Veterinary Medical Association or the Centers for Disease Control.

Share your tips in the comments below!

2 Comments
Comments
by Kim Perez Penney
‎12-25-2016 02:42 AM
  • Please do not leave your dogs out for an extended period of time.Its cold outside and they need to keep warm just lke We do,,They may have long coats but it's cold out there..V
  • Please do not leave your dogs out for an extended period of time.Its cold outside and they need to keep warm just lke We do,,They may have long coats but it's cold out there..V
Posted on Dec. 25, 2016
by Breeding Business
‎01-09-2017 08:47 PM

 We've actually published an article complementing this already great post on how to keep dogs warm during winter. We offer a list of quality dog hosue heaters but also tips to do it yourself (insulation!)

 We've actually published an article complementing this already great post on how to keep dogs warm during winter. We offer a list of quality dog hosue heaters but also tips to do it yourself (insulation!)

Posted on Jan. 9, 2017
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