This blog post contributed by PetPlan, our partner for all your pet insurance needs.

As soon as the temperatures drop, we pull out the winter tires, install storm doors, and bundle up in allll things cozy. But how do we prepare our 4-legged family members for the very same weather? Check out these 14 easy things you can do to keep your pet safe even on the coldest of days. 

1. Keep your pet indoors

You already know you should NEVER leave your pet unsupervised outside or in a car. But in the winter, doing so could be just as dangerous. Cars act like refrigerators, trapping cold air and producing freezing conditions. Even the dogs bred specifically with the cold in mind — think Huskies, Malamutes, Akitas, and Saint Bernards — are susceptible to frostbite. Cats should not venture out at all. 

Worried about your dog getting plenty of exercise (not to mention dealing with the “zoomies”)? Being inside is more fun with a friend, so why not arrange an indoor playdate?

2. Bundle up when nature calls

Once your dog’s fur gets wet, it loses much of its insulating ability. So it’s smart to have several jacket options available just in case (as if you needed another reason to shop for your pet!). Besides, what’s cuter than a pup sporting a cable-knit sweater or faux-fur-lined parka?

A waterproof jacket’s a great solution, especially for a short-haired dog. But you should always supervise your pet once they’re dressed — clothing can snag on something, making them uncomfortable or worse, putting them in danger. Make sure you consider a style that won’t interfere with potty time and will also cover their exposed belly.

3. Visit the vet

If your pet has yet to go for their annual checkup, now’s a great time. Cold weather can cause hypothermia, which leads to injuries and also makes some medical conditions like arthritis worse.

4. Continue preventive medicine

Your pet should remain on flea and tick preventatives throughout the year. Why? Well, these pests don’t disappear as soon as the weather cools. In fact, they can find their way indoors — inside basements, crawl spaces, and under porches. They can also remain dormant and then emerge when the conditions are just right.  

5. Clean up and store antifreeze

Antifreeze has a misleading sweet taste. Which means just a few licks from a driveway puddle could lead to kidney failure. Store it out of reach with the rest of your household chemicals.

6. Increase visibility

Shorter days mean lower visibility. Invest in some reflective gear for both you and your pet.

7. Protect their pads

While snow quickly freezes on paws and can cause problems, the biggest danger is ice-melting agents. Sidewalks and streets are sprinkled with the chemical concoction that can harm your pup’s feet, especially if their pads have any cuts. While booties will minimize contact with these de-icers, not every dog will agree to wear them. If that’s the case, apply petroleum jelly prior to heading outside and immediately wipe your pet’s paws with a damp towel as soon as you return home. If your dog enjoys rolling around on the ground or has shorter legs, you should thoroughly wipe down their belly and undercarriage as well. You don’t want your pet licking and ingesting the de-icer since they could get very sick.

8. Prepare for the worst

Before a storm hits, stock enough food to last your cat or dog 5 days. Also, don’t wait to refill your pet’s prescriptions — do it before they run out in case bad weather causes delays.

9. Tweak bath time

Just like baths can dry out our skin, the same goes for our pets. Use a moisturizing shampoo, bathe less frequently, and dry them completely after. Brushing their coat will stimulate blood circulation and improve their skin’s overall condition.

10. Consider microchipping

A fresh blanket of snow would hide familiar scents that might otherwise help your pet find the way back home. In addition to a fitted collar with up-to-date contact information, you may want to consider microchipping for a more permanent identification method.

11. Pet-proof your home

Since your pet will be spending more time inside, it’s best to check your house for potential hazards. Space heaters can burn your pets or start a fire. Carbon monoxide detectors should be installed, smoke detector batteries replaced, and furnaces checked to see if they work properly before the cold weather hits. Use a humidifier and provide plenty of drinking water in your home. And keep holiday plants out of reach as some can be dangerous for pets!

12. Maintain healthy eating habits

It’s common for pets to burn more calories in winter in order to stay warm. Some pet owners may think feeding their pet a little extra will help insulate their weight, but the associated health risks are actually more harmful. Your veterinarian can let you know the appropriate amount of food to offer, depending on your pet’s activity level in the winter.

And refrain from treating your pet to rich foods during the holidays. Straying too far from their normal diet could cause gastrointestinal complications.  

13. Check your car

Strays may seek shelter underneath your car. Always look first, bang on the hood, and honk your horn before starting the engine to dissuade any felines from hitching a ride.

14. Enroll in pet insurance

Accidents and illnesses can happen at any time. That’s why protecting your pet — and your wallet —with the most comprehensive coverage before anything happens is so important. Once your chosen policy’s in effect, you’ll be able to select the best treatment for your best friend without worrying about the cost.

Safe and smart | Home safety