As frigid temperatures threaten the Yorktown area again, we want to share our top tips for keeping pets warm during a freeze. Because Coastal Virginia enjoys mostly moderate winters, it's smart to have a plan in place for uncharacteristically cold days and nights, which can affect our pets both inside and outside the home.
Keeping Pets Warm During a Freeze: Indoors
Pets become accustomed to the temperatures that are common in their area. When temperatures rise or fall beyond the usual fluctuations, pets can feel it, especially those with age-related chronic pain and arthritis. For this reason, we have some recommendations for keeping pets warm during a freeze indoors:
Thick blankets are a great way to give your pet an extra warm sleeping surface. Both cats and dogs will burrow in a warm blanket to contain their body temperature. When choosing blankets for this purpose, opt for heavier knit blankets, wool, and faux fur. These blankets are cozy and warm and can usually be washed and dried pretty quickly. Avoid, however, blankets that are so heavy they don't fit in your home washer and dryer. Winter can be a messy time for dogs, especially, because snow melt, mud, and debris are bound to make their way back indoor and onto any surface your pet enjoys.
Cats and small dogs love a heated blanket or heating pad. They warm just enough to make surfaces comfy and keep the pet's body heat contained without overheating. Plus, many have multiple temperature settings, which allow you to customize the amount of heat your pet needs based on their age, health, hair length, species, indoor temps, etc.
Heating pads are also a great way to ease senior pets' weather-induced soreness in joints and muscles. That said, when using heating pads, please follow the manufacturer's instructions and unplug them when you're away.
Checking your thermostat and using separate sensors in rooms where your pet hangs out ensures that you are maintaining a comfortable temperature throughout the home. We have heard of families that got cozy by a fireplace only to find that their fish tank's water had plummeted to dangerous levels.
Whether using central heating, radiators, or fireplaces, always monitor the temperatures of your home's pet-friendly spaces. Also, check your fire and carbon monoxide alarms to ensure that they are working properly to prevent the unthinkable.
It's not uncommon for power to go out during severe winter storms. For this reason, you and your family should consider alternate forms of heating and a backup plan in case you find yourselves without power in dangerously low temperatures.
The Virginia Department of Emergency Management offers preparation and survival tips for power outages here. We also recommend you identify a pet-friendly hotel or motel that you can move into if power outages last beyond a night or two.
Keeping Pets Warm During a Freeze: In the Car
Travel during weather emergencies can be very dangerous, which is why we'll start by recommending you stay home as winter storms approach. Being home keeps you off the roads and ensures that you have what you need if things take a turn for the worst.
If you must travel in extremely cold temperatures, ensure you pack your car-specific emergency kit particularly food, water, blankets, flashlights, batteries, and phone chargers.
For your pet, it's of utmost importance that your pet be transported safely. For cats, small mammals, and small dogs, a hard shell crate placed on the floor behind the passenger seat is best. For medium, large, and extra-large dogs, travel crates and crash-rated harnesses are your best bet. We love Optimus Gear's Defender Harness, which is the only successfully crash-tested pet harness on the market to date and comes with an exceptional warranty.
Keeping Pets Warm During a Freeze: On Walks
At Hearts at Home Pet Sitting, we walk dogs in all weather conditions. For this reason, we know that some dogs will refuse to walk in extreme temperatures and, worse, in blizzard conditions.
If you have a dog that refuses to walk in extreme cold temperatures, consider doggy outerwear that will keep your pet warm and dry outdoors. These days, there is an endless array of dog-specific gear for all weather conditions. We particularly like Goldpaw Series' beautiful and functional designs for dogs. They make creative and comfy dog products including winter and raincoats, collars, leashes, and matching human accessories too!
If your concern relates to your dog's paws, keep in mind that dog paws are quite robust and can usually manage extreme temperatures quite well, assuming you limit exposure to short walks and potty breaks. That said, if you're treating your sidewalks and driveways, consider using a natural and truly pet-safe product like Ice Slicer's Nature's Blend.
Finally, when necessary and if your pet has an existing injury to their paws, consider booties and paw protection. The Spruce Pets ranks its top 10 picks for paw protection here.
No matter what product you choose, always employ positive reinforcement to introduce new gear to your pets. Slowly acclimating your dog to a new jacket, paw protection, etc. with the use of treats is the best method for everyone and has the longest-lasting results.
At Hearts at Home Pet Sitting, we take extreme weather very seriously. We activate our Inclement Weather Plan when temperatures and weather conditions make driving and being outdoors unsafe. To learn more about our weather policy, please check out our most recent blog. To discuss your concerns for upcoming visits, please visit our website or contact us by email at Hello@HeartsAtHomePetSitting.com or by phone at 757-745-9868.
Hearts at Home Pet Sitting provides in-home pet sitting and dog walking services in Yorktown, Poquoson, Newport News, and Hampton, Virginia. If you are interested in registering with us, please complete a new client questionnaire here.
Existing clients may request services here. We look forward to caring for your pets!