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Protecting Your Pets From The Cold

With cold weather continuing in West Michigan for the foreseeable future, here are some tips on keeping your furry friends safe!

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — With the cold weather outbreak around West Michigan, and for that matter much of the United States, unlikely to break anytime soon, it is important to remember it is not just you who has to deal with the arctic air. Your furry friends who live outdoors are also dealing with this extreme cold. 

RELATED: 13 On Your Side Forecast: Rounds of Light Snow

Just as you need to seek shelter from below freezing temperatures, your pets do as well, and their fur isn't enough protection when things get this cold. 

The good news is that there are plenty of easy things you can do to help them out.

Let's take a look!


One of the most important things to do for your outdoor pets in cold weather is make sure they have a proper shelter. 

Their outdoor home should be big enough for them to fit fully inside and have enough room for them to curl up. It should be elevated off the ground and have warm bedding materials such as straw or blankets. (A heated sleeping pad is great but not required.)

You should also make sure the entrance to the sleeping area is shielded from the wind. Some houses are made for this, others you may need to improvise an entry way with some 90 degree angles in order to block out the wind. 

Remember, just like you, your pet can lose a lot of body heat through wind chill, and protecting them from this wind in their shelter is key to protecting them in the cold. 

Credit: Michael Behrens
Tips for your pet's outdoor shelter in cold weather.


It is important not to forget about water for your pet when temperatures get below freezing. Fresh water is key for you pet's health. 

When persistent below freezing weather is expected, you need to provide your outdoor pet with a heated water dish in order to prevent their water from freezing. These can be found at almost any retailer who deals in pet supplies. 

Credit: Michael Behrens
Having a heated water dish is vital for your pet in below freezing weather.


Pets, especially cats, are attracted to the warmth of your car during winter, and this means you need to take extra caution when going to start your vehicle. 

Cats and other small animals may seek shelter on, underneath, or even inside the engine compartment of your vehicle. Before starting it, make sure you make plenty of noise. Slam the doors, stomp, honk the horn, and just make sure any animal near the vehicle will have heard you and been startled off before you turn over the key. 

Credit: Michael Behrens
Make noise before starting your car in winter in order to scare off pets who may use it for shelter. Honking is a great way to do this.

Walking Your Pet:

It is also important to take additional precautions when walking your pets in cold weather.

First, you may want to consider limiting the amount of time you take them on a walk in order to reduce their exposure to cold temperatures. You may also want to check with your vet to see if having your pet wear some protective clothing may be appropriate. 

Additionally, you should take care to clean snow, ice, salt, or other debris from your pets fur or paws when you return home. In addition to making them more comfortable, this will also ensure no toxic materials (such as ice melt, road grime, or other chemicals) become ingested by your pet when they go to groom later on. 

Furthermore, this is a good time to examine your pet's paws to make sure they have not been injured by walking in the cold. Things to look out for include cracked paw pads or redness around the toes. 

Warning Signs:

Finally, it is also important to look out for the warning signs your pet is getting too cold. 

If they are hesitant to continue on a walk, cowering, trembling, having trouble moving or breathing, or just in general look unwell, make sure you get them inside and warmed up as soon as possible. 

Keeping your eye out for strange behavior is the easiest way to tell if something is wrong with your pet during cold weather. 

Credit: Michael Behrens
Warning signs your pet is not doing well in the cold.

If they do not return to normal after warming them up, make sure you take them to a vet for further examination and possible treatment. 

As our cold weather looks to continue in the weeks ahead, make sure you are doing all you can for your furry friends!  

Also keep an eye on the forecast, both us and our pets are all looking forward to the spring season, which is not too far ahead!

-- Meteorologist Michael Behrens

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Email me at: MBehrens@13OnYourSide.com

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