If you have outdoor pets, then you know protecting them from the elements is important.  But one of the hardest times for an outdoor pet is the winter.

Depending on where you live, winters can be very harsh, I know in Ontario winters are harsh.  My dog lives in the house with me, but loves to spend a lot of time outdoors and sometimes they forget just how hard the elements are on their bodies. 

It is up to us humans to monitor our pets and to keep them safe.  There are a few signs to watch for when a pet is in trouble and one of them is lethargy.

outdoor pets in winterCredit: morguefile.com

Tip 1 - Watch for Lethargy

I noticed when I take my dog for a walk in the winter, even though she has a thick fur coat, she will start to tire much earlier than in the other seasons, and will want to sit or lay down or really start panting.  This means their heart rate and body systems are slowing down because they are getting too cold.  Often this can happen quicker than with their human owners because we are layered in all kinds of coats and boots.  So, watch for this, and make sure you don’t walk too far on a cold day.

That also goes for letting them play in the yard.  At first they are like children who have seen snow for the first time, playing and rolling, but then they will begin to tire so, don’t just throw them in the yard and forget about them for an hour, monitor them.

outdoor heated pet houseCredit: amazon.com
Allied Plastic Heated Pet Bowl, 5-Quart
Amazon Price: $29.99 $19.43 Buy Now
(price as of Jan 3, 2015)

Tip 2 - Dehydration

A dog or even a cat that is outside in the winter still needs lots of fresh water to drink.  All the work of trying to stay warm is taxing on their bodies, and they need water.  So if you take your dog for a long walk make sure you take a water bottle for your pooch too.

If you have outdoor pets that stay outside all the time, then consider getting a heated water bowl.  This way they always have fresh water and not an ice cube.  They are an affordable way to make sure your pet gets lots of water to stay hydrated.  Eating snow is not enough, they need to lap at water.

winter tips for outdoor petsCredit: amazon.com
K&H Manufacturing Outdoor Heated Kitty A-Frame Cat House
Amazon Price: $164.99 $75.30 Buy Now
(price as of Jan 3, 2015)

Tip 3 - Heated Outdoor Pet House

You can get these online, and they take very little electricity to keep gentle warmth in the pet house.  It is hard on their bodies to stay warm when the thermometer takes a nose dive especially overnight.  I have a friend that has outdoor cats, and she provides a safe and warm outdoor pet house for them on her back porch.  She says they cuddle inside and stay warm with each other and the house itself.

She doesn’t even have to coach them to use it; they just seem to migrate to the warmer nest.  She gives them old quilts to cuddle in as well, and this way they are sheltered from the environment and to some extent predators. 

You could give them a pet door to an outdoor shed or garage but then you run the risk of them getting into trouble in the hood of your car or other vehicles.

outdoor heated pet bedCredit: amazon.com
K&H Lectro-Soft Heated Outdoor Bed, Medium
Amazon Price: $74.99 $46.74 Buy Now
(price as of Jan 3, 2015)

Tip 4 - Heated Pet Beds

You get ones that are especially designed for outdoors and these will simply slip into the pet house or dog house and are particularly good for your outdoor guard dog, or if you simply have your dog living outdoors.  They don’t have to be kept hot, just nice gentle warmth.  You can plug them into a regular outlet and the wires are protected and designed for the outdoors.  This keeps them off the cold ground where the cold can really seep into their bones.

pet bootsCredit: amazon.com
Ultra Paws Rugged Dog Boot, Black, Medium
Amazon Price: $34.99 $31.88 Buy Now
(price as of Jan 3, 2015)

Tip 5 - Pet Boots

If you have a dog that maybe stays indoors but still loves to go for those walks with you, then pet boots work well at keeping the snow out from between their toes where it tends to bunch up into painful cutting ice cubes. 

My dog gets these between her toes if we go walking through trails.  She has fur between her toes that I try to keep trimmed especially in the winter so that ice doesn’t form on the fur and create those painful ice cubes. 

The boots are not just designed for walking the sidewalks (although perfect for keeping salt off their pads) they also work well on trail walking.  It can take a while to get dogs used to boots but if you start them off early in the fall, and let them walk around the house with first two then four boots, they will get to know that it means walk time when you get the boots ready for them to wear.

pet bootsCredit: amazon.com

Tip 6 - Barrier Cream for those Die Hard NON Boot Wearing Doggies!

Many dogs, no matter how hard you try, simply will not wear pet boots.  They go crazy trying to take them off and if like my dog, will spend all their time chewing them off.  But she still gets dried out and cracked pads on her feet.

You can get a barrier cream for their pads and feet, that won’t stain your house, but seems to keep the salt and crud from really taking hold on the bottoms of their feet.  This is a worthwhile investment for dogs that despise boots!

Tip 7 - Bang on the Hood of Your Car

Outdoor cats and other wild critters will migrate to the engine of your car to get out of the wind and to stay warm, especially if you just pulled into your driveway in the evening hours. 

I made the mistake of starting my car early the next morning and to my horror saw a couple of rabbits run away from the car, but one didn’t make it.  Not only did I feel badly for the rabbit but I had a 300 dollar repair bill.  So, bag on the hood or make a lot of noise getting into your car during the winter months. 

Cats will get up into your engine through the wheel wells or from under the car so if you live in an area, especially rural areas, then make lots of noise.  If you provide them with a nice place to sleep,  they will likely stay away from your car and stay safe.