Pet safety tips for the winter

With winter coming to Montana, experts offer tips for pet owners
Posted at 4:32 PM, Jan 09, 2024
and last updated 2024-01-09 19:50:43-05

With well below freezing and sub-zero temperatures right around the corner, it’s important to ensure the safety of our four-legged friends.

“We bundle up and we put on chapstick and we do all of the things to make sure that when we're outside, we stay healthy and happy. What we're looking at now is that we should probably be doing the same thing for our pets,” said Laramie Smovir, volunteer coordinator at the Great Falls Animal Shelter. “If you can bring your pets inside, that is always the best option. Now, we understand there are some circumstances where animals do need to stay outside for some period of time, preferably not all the time, but if they do, there's a couple of things that you can do.”

Some tips for pets that can't sleep indoors include:

  • Dry, Draft-Free Enclosure: Provide a shelter that's spacious enough for your pet to sit and lie down comfortably but snug enough to retain body heat.
  • Raised Floor: Elevate the floor a few inches off the ground to prevent cold seeping through. Cover it with cedar shavings or straw for insulation.
  • Wind Protection: Turn the enclosure away from the wind, and cover the doorway with waterproof burlap or heavy plastic to shield your pet from chilly gusts.
  • Say NO to Fabric: Avoid using blankets, towels, or other fabrics as they retain moisture, making pets susceptible to chilling, hypothermia, or worse. Opt for straw (NOT HAY) as it dries quickly and doesn't hold onto moisture.

Smovir explained, “If you guys go out for a walk where you're going to be near the streets that are sanded and de-iced and all that sort of stuff, when you come back, you're actually going to want to wash their paws. That sand and that those chemicals that they used to de-ice the streets and the sidewalks can be toxic to animals, but it can also just be really bad for the digestive system, and it can cause cracking and bleeding of their paws. So, wash those paws, dry them off real good, and then put a little petroleum jelly on there because just like your lips get chapped, dog's paws will also get chapped and they can crack and bleed, which can be very uncomfortable.”
Smovir also recommends avoiding bathing your dogs as much as possible in the winter to keep their skin from getting too dry in the cold temperatures.

“One of the other things that you want to think about is their skin and coat. You know how your skin gets really dry during the winter, same thing for your animals. One way to help both you and your animal is to have some sort of humidification in your house that's going to help keep those nasal passages nice and where it is going to keep that skin a little bit moisturized.”

For more tips on how to ensure your pets safety in the winter, you can visit the Great Falls Animal Shelter website.