by Henry M. Jones, DVM
Keep an eye on the temperature. When it falls below 20 degrees Fahrenheit, it's best to keep your pet indoors. Short-haired dogs, cats and puppies should be kept indoors when the temperature dips below 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
Keep your pet's coat well groomed. Matted fur won't properly protect your pet from the cold.
Check your garage and driveway for antifreeze. Antifreeze tastes sweet to pets, but most brands are poisonous if consumed. Should your pet ingest any amount of antifreeze, contact your veterinarian immediately.
Regularly check your pet's water to make sure it's not frozen. When your pet is outside, make sure there is plenty of fresh drinking water available. Animals can't burn calories without a fresh supply of water, and if they can't burn calories, they'll get cold. Also, use a tip-resistant, ceramic or hard plastic water bowl rather than a metal one, as your pet's tongue can stick and freeze to a cold metal.
Use a damp towel to wipe your pet's feet and underside. Ice-melting chemicals can irritate and burn the pads of your pet's feet and can cause serious injury if ingested. Another way to protect your dog's feet is to spray the pads of their feet with cooking spray or you can purchase boots for your pet.
Provide a dry, draft-free doghouse if you must keep your dog outside for any period of time. It should be large enough to allow your dog to sit and lay down comfortably but small enough to hold in its body heat. The floor should be raised a few inches off the ground and covered with cedar shavings or straw. The doghouse should be turned to face away from the wind, and the doorway should be covered with waterproof burlap or heavy plastic.
Keep snow from piling high next to your fence. A packed snowdrift will provide a boost for your dog to jump over the fence and escape the safe confines of your yard.
Indoors, make sure your pet sleeps away from drafts. Areas near windows or doors that lead outdoors may allow cold air to seep in and keep your pet from staying adequately warm.
Consider the amount of exercise your dog receives during colder weather. If your dog stays indoors more, it's probably getting less exercise and may need less food; however, if your pet is outside often it may need more food to burn the calories necessary to produce more body heat.
Compare the amount of exercise your dog receives during the colder months to warmer months. If your dog is indoors more at this time of year, it's probably getting less exercise and may need less food. However, if your pet is outside often in the winter months, it may need more food to burn the calories necessary to produce more body heat.