Winter Pet Safety

12207420_10156210763510068_223423836_oWhether we like it or not, winter is fast approaching and we all know what that means: sub-zero temperatures, blistering winds, and waist-high snow drifts. It can be a beautiful time of year, but it’s also one of the most dangerous for pets and neighbourhood animals who can’t always find a warm place to go during these coldest months. With a little help from us, though, we can make surviving the winter a little bit easier on our four-legged furry friends!

To keep your pets safe:

1) Be mindful of the temperature: As a general rule of thumb, if it’s too cold for you to be outside, it’s probably too cold for your pets. In last year’s Vet Q&A: Winter Edition, Dr. Anwar of Lakeside Vet Clinic says -20C is the cut off; below that temperature, hypothermia can set in very quickly. Don’t forget to factor in the windchill, too!

2) Limit time outside: Limiting cold exposure becomes important as the mercury drops, so try to stick to shorter periods of outdoor play or walks if it’s well below freezing.

3) Dress your pet appropriately: Certain breeds of dogs can withstand longer periods of time outside, but for smaller dogs, it may be wise to invest in cold weather gear like sweaters, vests, and booties. (Booties are also good to keep salt from irritating and damaging your pet’s paws!) Also keep in mind that puppies, short hair breeds, and recently-bathed dogs are more prone to cold; keep your puppies safe and warm, don’t clip your dog’s hair too short, and wait until your dog’s fur is completely dry before heading outside for playtime.

4) Supervision: It may be tempting to open your backdoor and let your dog run around in the snow while you stay bundled up indoors with a warm cup of cocoa instead. But in really cold weather, supervision of your pet is vital in order to monitor for signs of distress. Signs of cold weather distress include shivering, lack of mental alertness, and weakness. If your pet begins exhibiting these signs, it’s important to bring them indoors and warm them up with blankets and cuddles.

Supervision also ensures your pet doesn’t get into rock salt or antifreeze that has been used, left out, or spilled! If possible, avoid using salt and chemicals at all on your sidewalks, and clean up any spills immediately. This not only protects your pets but also other pets and neighbourhood animals in your community.

5) After playtime: It’s important also to keep your pets warm after outdoor playtime is over. Under your vet’s supervision, it may be a good idea to increase the amount of food your dog is eating if they are active outdoors. Make sure that you provide safe and dry places for your pet to sleep, away from drafts and off the floor if possible (ie. on a cat or dog bed, with a warm blanket and pillow.)

This goes double for dogs with outdoor shelters. Ensure warm, dry bedding is provided (straw is a good bedding material, provided it is changed frequently), that their kennel has a sloped roof and is insulated from wind and heated, and with a doorway that prevents snow and rain from getting inside. If you have any doubts about their outdoor shelter or if the weather is extremely cold for an extended period of time, it is always better to bring your pet inside than risk their health in a questionable shelter. Zoe’s is always looking for donations of dog igloos for this exact reason. If you happen across one in good condition that you think would be usable, contact us and we can make sure it makes to a location where it will be used by neighbourhood dogs in need!

Hopefully by following these tips, you can enjoy the long winter months with a healthy, happy pet by your side!

Cold Weather – Animals in Distress


It goes without saying that winter is a harsh time of year. This is especially true for lost and stray animals in our communities, who may not have a place to warm up when it gets cold. What should you do if you find an animal in distress?

  • Contact the proper authorities. In the City of Edmonton, this would be Animal Care & Control, and they can be accessed by calling 311 or 780-442-5311. They will send someone out to take the animal in, to try and locate its guardian, or bring it to a veterinarian for care if it is sick or injured and needs medical attention
  • Animal Control may not be available to respond immediately, in which case you should try to get the animal to a warm location as soon as possible. This could be a garage or a shed, or into your home if you can. In the event you can’t coax it indoors, providing it with a temporary shelter (such as a sturdy box lined with straw) may be your best bet.
  • Offer food and water. Even if the animal does not want to come inside, a dish of food left in a safe location can be a lifesaver for an animal in need; it means they do not have to spend time and energy scrounging for food, and they can be better equipped to fight off illness or injury should they become ill. Wet food left outside will freeze, so use dry food. Check water dishes left out for freezing, as well.
  • Bear in mind that an animal that is obviously injured may become violent and attack if it feels threatened. Leave food and water and shelter available to the animal and monitor the situation until someone can be dispatched to properly care for the injured animal
  • If you see an animal left tethered outdoors or locked in a cold vehicle, and you suspect an abusive situation, contact the Edmonton Humane Society (780-471-1774) to report the situation and for advice on what to do next.

For neighbourhood animals (such as stray cats, or even local wildlife such as hares and jackrabbits) there are things you can do to keep your property free from hazards as well:

  • DIY animal shelters are a wonderful option for keeping cats safe and warm through the winter months. It is vital that these shelters be maintained and cleaned regularly, so if you go this route please be mindful of the time necessary to maintain them.
  • Cleaning up spilled antifreeze and securing other de-icing chemicals and sidewalk salts is vital as these are attractive to animals and can pose serious health risks if ingested.
  • A good habit to form is to make a lot of noise when getting into your vehicle after it’s been parked overnight or for a long period of time, as well as checking behind the tires before you start to drive away. Stray animals and wildlife may easily hide underneath cars or even within the exposed sections of our cars’ underbody, and this poses risks of serious injury or death when the car is started. A couple of quick bangs on the hood of your car should be enough to scare away any animals seeking shelter inside or around your car.

It’s not always possible to help an animal in distress, and you shouldn’t put your safety at risk to accomplish this. If you don’t feel it is safe to intercept a stray animal, make the call and monitor things until help arrives. Together, we can make winter a better one for the animals in our community!

Tips to keep your pets safe on Halloween

Halloween can be a scary time for both pets and owners: during the season, emergency vet clinics grow busy, and corner posts fill with posters of beloved cats and dogs. Maybe that’s why October is also National Animal Safety and Protection month! To keep your pets safe this Halloween, watch out for the following dangers.

With his ID tags and microchip, Franklin is ready to travel anywhere.

With his ID tags and microchip, Franklin is ready to travel anywhere.

Open Doors
It’s easy for a frightened cat or dog to dart out of an open door while you’re tending to trick-or-treaters. To prevent your pet from escaping, keep them in a separate room, or put up a gate.

A microchip and collar will also help your pet to be easily returned if they do manage to get out.





While no one can deny that a dog dressed as a dinosaur is beyond adorable, you should always respect your pet’s stress signals. If your cat or dog begins to panic, remove the costume. You may have to downgrade to a festive collar or bandana if they’re too anxious about a full costume.

If your pet loves their suit, great! But supervise whenever they wear it, check that they can still move about freely, and avoid costumes that have easy-to-ingest ribbons and doodads.


You know pets: eat first, ask questions later. Don’t let that ‘later’ turn into emergency exploratory surgery. Keep all decorations out of reach, and make sure that candles are kept away from precarious edges.




Dogs are basically year-round trick-or-treaters, and won’t waste an opportunity to grab candy. Artificial sweeteners, chocolate, and raisins can all be toxic to pets, even in small doses, so keep treats out of reach. If you have kids, explain to them why they can’t share their loot with their furry sibling. And of course, some pet-safe treats wouldn’t go astray.


Though we all want our pets to be door greeters, some animals just aren’t cut out for it. If your pet is stressed by meeting new people, keep them in a quiet room away from the front with some snacks or toys to keep them busy. If the sound of the doorbell is a stressor, you can turn on some light music to mask the noise.

Even if your pet initially likes greeting people, watch for signs of over-stimulation such as excessive panting, pacing, and turning a deaf ear on your commands. If you live in a busy neighborhood, you may need to alternate greeting with some quiet time.

“Ready to answer the door, greet strangers in costume, and save America.”

Who is this handsome dog, you ask? He’s Franklin, a proud rescue ally! Franklin isn’t up for adoption, but there are many other great dogs (and cats!) waiting for homes. Check out our adoptables page!

Photos by zoography