When living on Long Island, we need to know how to care for our pets in any weather, especially during frigid winter months. Be sure you’re educated on how to protect your pets from unpredictable weather as the temperature drops.
First and foremost, there’s obviously a huge difference between walking a small dog, like a Pomeranian, and a large breed like an Alaskan Malamute. Smaller and older dogs are less equipped to handle colder weather, so you may want to dress them in appropriate outerwear so they can better withstand the temperature.
Always check their feet and fur. Ice balls can form between the pads of their feet – or worse, salt to melt the snow can get stuck, which when ingested, can be fatal. For smaller dogs, keeping their feet warm is even more important. Some pet stores sell small boots or thick socks to help protect paws, but be advised that lots of dogs will try biting or kicking them off. You may have to coax them with treats if your vet recommends keeping their paws covered.
Unlike dogs that often fuss or shiver, cats are less likely to show whether or not they are cold or distressed by the weather change. You’ll want to keep their fur as dry as possible, as wet fur being exposed to the cold can lead to illness. Unlike dogs, most cats will not be comfortable in a sweater, so prepping a bed or cat tree with a little extra padding and soft blankets is a smart idea.
Be sure to check your cat’s paws for injury, broken paw pads, or ice balls stuck in their fur – and make sure his or her fur is dry.
If there are a lot of strays in your neighborhood, one thing to keep in mind is that small animals will look for shelter in extreme weather. Some common temporary shelters for strays are dryers and recently parked cars. Always check before starting either – they will know to leave, especially if they are strays. Lastly, outdoor cats need more food during the winter, as they burn calories to stay warm. Checking that they have fresh water in their dishes, instead of frozen water, is also important.
While some small pets can survive just fine in a covered, dry outdoor area, it’s best to keep your caged animals indoors. Rabbits, hamsters, and guinea pigs thrive during the cold winter months in same-species pairs or small groups indoors, rather than being on their own, because of the socialization and, more critically, body warmth. Extra food is important when it is incredibly cold. Cleaning their cages every morning is key in order to avoid your pets sleeping in a cold, wet bed – and a heating pad is also helpful in extreme cold. Lastly, guinea pigs need extra vitamin C every day to avoid illnesses. Heating lamps, space heaters, or air humidifiers for birds are particularly helpful during the winter – especially since they thrive in humidity and moisture.