– by Tania Sigurdson, PVHS Education Chair

Recently, while shovelling my driveway, I was wishing for the hot summer days of putting on hats and sunscreen before heading outside.  Now, instead of a wide-brimmed beach hat and flip-flops,  it is time to pull out the toques and snow boots in order to stay warm.  Similarly, it is time to make those adjustments for our animals to be sure they are ready for winter as well. Honestly, I feel like we hear more about summer animal safety than we do winter safety, so I did some research on the topic.

In my home, my animals vary in shape, size, and in thickness of fur – all factors to consider when caring for them in winter.  In addition, one of my pups suffers from Cushing’s disease – a hormonal imbalance which makes it much more difficult for her body to regulate her temperature.  Heart disease, diabetes, and kidney disease also make it difficult for pets to self-regulate their temperature and need special care and observation when outside in the cold.  I was also interested to read about trimming (or having a groomer trim) the extra fur between their  toes to make sure their pads to not pick up and collect snow and increase the risk of frost bite.   Even with trimmed paws, it is important to wash paws after walks to make sure to remove all the salt and chemicals that can be found on sidewalks and streets.

In the winter months, it is especially important to limit our pet’s exposure to the cold and to understand the limits of each individual pet in our care.  I have one tiny pup and one big furry pup.  One change we have to make in winter is not walking the pups together (which is sad because they love each other’s company). Instead, in winter we do a quick walk (sometimes only to the end of the driveway and back) with my little dog and she is done!  Not the summer exercise she is used to getting but her tiny body and little paws are more susceptible to frost bite and injury so, we adjust. Once she is safely back in the warmth, it is time to take out our big dog who loves winter and diving into snowbanks!  He is bigger and his fur is longs and he can manage longer winter walks.  Both my pups need exercise and fresh air in the cold winter months (as do I) but their safety in the cold is the most important thing.  While winter can bring lots of fun, it is definitely not the season to allow pets to roam or to leave them out in the cold unsupervised.

In summary, we need to remember that the care we take with ourselves in the cold needs to be applied to our animals as well.  Our pets look to us to keep them warm and safe in winter and rely on us to know these limits.  There is still much fun to be had indoors during the winter months.

I wish for you and your pets a lot of fun winter memories together!


5 Ways to Protect Pets in Winter: https://www.humanesociety.org/resources/five-ways-protect-pets-winter

Cold Weather Animal Safety: https://www.avma.org/resources-tools/pet-owners/petcare/cold-weather-animal-safety

Keep Your Pets Safe and Warm This Winter: https://www.animalleague.org/blog/tips/keep-pets-safe-warm-winter/

Pets & Cold Weather: https://www.albertaspca.org/animal-care/companion-animals/caring-for-pets/pets-cold-weather/

Last modified: October 7, 2023