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How to protect your pets from winter weather

By Brian Lada, AccuWeather meteorologist and staff writer

When harsh winter weather hits, it can affect pets as much as people.

However, with the proper protection and preparation, pets can safely spend time outdoors amid the snow and cold.

When the temperatures drop low enough for people to wear winter coats, it may also be time for pet owners to bundle up their pets before heading outside.

“Many dogs enjoy walking outside in cold weather and playing in the snow,” Dr. Erin Wilson, medical director of the ASPCA, said.

“If dogs seem uncomfortable, then a sweater or jacket can be very helpful,” Wilson said.

Even dogs with thick winter fur can benefit from a coat or sweater during an outbreak of arctic air.

Dog in snow (AP)

Sarah Appleman of Washington and her dog Frankenstein take a walk near Capitol Hill in Washington during the start of a major snowstorm, Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2014. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

If pets do not have the proper protection from the chilly air, they can face heath risks similar to humans that are unprotected from the cold.

“Pets are sensitive to severe cold and are at risk for frostbite and hypothermia during extreme cold snaps," according to the Humane Society of the United States. “Exposed skin on noses, ears and paw pads can quickly freeze and suffer permanent damage."

If an animal is showing signs of frostbite or hypothermia, you should contact your veterinarian immediately.

Booties are another form of clothing for pets to not only keep their sensitive paws from getting frost bitten, but also to protect them from harmful chemicals, such as rock salt.

Sled Dogs with boots

Sled dogs wearing booties to protect their feet. (Photo/Romana Krochuk/Hemera/Thinkstock)

People with pets that live primarily outside should take extra steps to ensure that their pet is safe during the winter months.

“Heated houses with lots of soft, warm blankets can be used by both dogs and cats,” Wilson said.

“Owners should also check water sources twice daily, to make sure that the water bowl hasn’t frozen over,” he added.

Regardless of whether pets lives inside, owners should supply them with extra food as it takes more energy to stay warm in the winter time.

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Major winter storms, such as blizzards, can affect pets of all kinds, including indoor pets.

People should always keep their pets in mind when preparing for a major storm and ensure that they have enough food to last several days following the storm in case travel is unsafe.

Additionally, major storms can lead to long-duration power outages, which may result in indoor temperatures dropping to dangerously low levels for pets.

For more safety and preparedness tips, visit


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