Colorado has beautiful winters, but with the fluffy snow comes a whole bunch of new considerations for our furry friends.
Journey Home is a temporary home for mostly dogs and cats, but these winter tips can apply to all animals. I myself have chickens, goats, ducks, and a mini horse who all get heaters during our winter months. My mini horse Rexy loves his electric heater. If you do put a heater into your pet’s enclosure, remember to check them regularly. Once when I was living in Midland, Texas, the small heater we had hanging in our barn fell. Something like that could start a fire, so please make sure to be careful.
If you have pets that cannot be brought indoors, straw is a great way to insulate. We add straw to our duck’s house, the houses for our goats, our dog houses, and our chicken coop. If you need straw, there’s a few different places to get it. We usually get ours at Tractor Supply. If you’re using straw, you will need to add more and/or change it out as it gets wet.
Most people who have lived through a Colorado winter with outdoor animals know they’ll need a water heater. But, if it’s your first rodeo the round heaters that float on top of the water work great. Keep in mind that you’ll need a way to plug them in. We have to use pretty long extension cords for all of ours. Some animals will also chew the cord, so checking it regularly is important. If you don’t put a heater in your water, going out each morning to break through the ice is a sure way to wake you up.
Another good tip I received after moving here from Arizona, is to check my animals’ feet. Cats and dogs’ paws can crack or bleed because of the cold weather and ice. Also, during winter people use things like antifreeze, and de-icers. Wiping off your pets’ paws when they go from outdoors to indoors could help remove things like that, that they may have picked up. Speaking of antifreeze, there are pet-friendly alternatives to keep your pets safe from accidentally ingesting it.
In Arizona none of my animals needed things like a sweater, but if you have a short haired animal it could help them stay warm. Pet sweaters are cute, but they do make ones for the purpose of keeping warm. If you plan to let your pet play in the snow, a sweater could make a big difference as well as drying them off once they’re done making their snow angels. Even Rexy the mini horse has a big blue and black jacket he loves wearing during the winter.
Feeding your pets a little extra during the cold months won’t hurt either. Maybe it’s an extra scoop of cat food, or an additional flake of hay, but food does equate to warmth. I have no idea if there’s scientific evidence to back me, but I feed my animals twice a day during the winter. Once in the morning and again later in the evening as it’s starting to get cold. Sometimes I look out and if it looks like they’re cold, I feed them again.
I obviously recommend bringing animals indoors when possible once it gets extremely cold. The saying if it’s too cold for you, it’s too cold for them is said for a reason. My Sulcata tortoise adores living outside, but once it drops below 70 he’s moved inside for the season. My dogs love the snow, but spend a lot of time indoors when the temperature drops. I once put Rexy in our garage because it was pouring rain and he was soaked. Silly horse just stood out in it. My husband definitely wasn’t thrilled about me forcing Rexy to wait out the storm in his garage, but I got Rexy all dry with some towels and had a long talk with him about the importance of shelter.
As we get closer and closer to the short days, and long cold nights please start thinking about how the weather will affect your animals. Many people think about not leaving their pet in a hot car, but keep in mind that your pet can freeze in a car too. The winter also means it’s dark when most of us are leaving for work, so try and give yourself a little extra time in the morning to get your pets situated before heading out for the day.
Journey Home is a community resource as well as a shelter, so if you have any questions about braving the winter with your pet please reach out to us!