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I was born and raised in Idaho, I live there still, and I know cold. I grew up a dairyman’s son on a classic American farm, and there’s nothing a farmer knows like the weather because there’s no day a farmer isn’t out in it.
As a veteran veterinarian (more than 30 years in practice), I also know the toll winter’s worst can take on our pets, especially the old or the chronically ill. As winter’s worst does its best to make us all miserable, it’s essential to be sure our animals are as warm and safe as they possibly can be. That starts, of course, by working with your veterinarian to make sure your pets are in good health, because a body that's working well is better able to stand the strain of extreme weather.
After that, it’s up to you to protect them. Here are some tips on exactly how to do that.
The best place for pets to live is indoors, as part of your family. When I was growing up, our farm dog never came in the house until I begged my dad to let him come in during a blizzard. At that point, our dog became part of the Great Migration, from the barnyard to the backyard to the kitchen to the bedroom to the bed. While the farm dogs of my childhood always had a warm, well-insulated place to live, it’s no surprise that now my dogs share my bed like so many others do, probably yours. For dogs and cats both, the best way to keep them warm and safe is to keep them inside.
Of course, I do realize that some people don’t keep their pets indoors, and if that’s your situation you need to make sure your pet has shelter that not only protects him from the elements but is also well insulated and small enough to help him retain his body heat. Even better: Get a pet-safe heating element made for use outside, and always put a blanket or towel between the element and your dog to reduce the chance of skin burns. You’ll need one for the water dish too, because pets always need access to fresh water.
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