Many states across the country have had heavy snowfall this year, including Utah, which is enjoying its fifth best start to a water year since records have been kept.

We humans typically take extra precautions in the wintertime to ensure our safety and to make our lives easier — we equip ourselves with down-filled parkas to keep us warm, snow boots to make the dreaded trek from our front doors to our garbage cans, and much more.

While unprecedented winter weather continues across the United States, it’s important to remember that our furry friends need some extra warmth as well. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, “It’s a common belief that dogs and cats are more resistant than people to cold weather because of their fur, but it’s untrue. Like people, cats and dogs are susceptible to frostbite and hypothermia and should be kept inside.”

How to take extra care of your pet in the winter

The AVMA gives guidance on pet wellness and safety during winter weather, including:

  • Know your pet’s tolerance for cold: Some breeds are better suited for cold weather, so it’s important to keep your pet’s coat type and length, body fat, activity level and overall health in mind when determining their temperature tolerance.
  • “Play dress-up”: The AVMA recommends you “play dress-up” with your furry friend. Consider adding a coat or sweater to your pet’s wardrobe to keep them warm during their winter walks, and some well-fitted booties — if your pet won’t refuse to walk in them.
  • Keep an eye on those paws: Our feet get us from place to place, day in and day out. It’s the same for our pets, and just like ours, their feet can get a little rough around the edges during the winter. The AVMA advises pet owners to check their pet’s paws often for any rawness or bleeding. This can be more common during winter months due to salt and ice. It’s also important to wipe your pet’s extremities down after having been outside to ensure they don’t track in any chemicals that could be toxic — like some ice melts.
Sarah Ackerson looks back at her dog Nala following a snowstorm in Liberty Park in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2022.
Sarah Ackerson looks back at her dog Nala following a snowstorm in Liberty Park in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2022. | Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

How cold is too cold for your pet?

It’s a common reality among cold weather regions that when it’s wintertime, folks stay inside as much as possible. The same should go for our pets. But, when you are wanting to venture out with your pet to get some fresh air, how do you know when it’s too cold for them? It’s a cliché, but if it’s too cold for you, it’s likely too cold for them.

“Under 30 degrees, factoring in the wind chill, it’s not going to be safe for any dog to be outside for an extended period of time,” says Dr. Kim Smyth, a staff veterinarian with Petplan insurance and a pet health writer, according to NPR. “You can buy yourself a little bit of time with warm weather clothing.”

All in all, keep your pets inside with you when possible, especially during the winter. They’re part of the family, and they deserve a warm place to call home. That said, when taking them outside for winter excursions, suit them up and prepare them for the cold as you would yourself — they may even give you some extra kisses for it.

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