Here’s how Michiganders can make this winter less ‘ruff’ for their pets

Here’s how Michiganders can make this winter less ‘ruff’ for their pets

Photo Courtesy of Matthew Henry/Unsplash

By Lucas Henkel

January 24, 2024

As temperatures drop to below freezing, here’s what Michiganders can do to keep their pets warm and safe this winter.

Michigan winters can be absolutely miserable. Sub-zero wind chills, mountains of snow, and fewer hours of sunshine? No thanks.

Winter time can be rough for a lot of Michiganders, but it can be an especially “ruff” time for your pets. 

“There is a common misconception that dogs will be okay if left outside during the winter months. This simply is not true,” said Penny Myers, director of community relations at the Capital Area Humane Society (CAHS), in a Facebook post. “All pets need adequate shelter and protection from the wind, snow, and freezing temperatures.”

Outdoor pets can also develop frostbite on the tips of their tails and ears if left outside for extended periods. If left out for too long, our pets can quickly develop hypothermia—which can be lethal. 

To make sure all of your four-legged friends stay safe this winter, here are a few tips Michiganders should know.

Salt safely 

Chemicals and salt solutions can be handy to melt snow and ice, but pet owners should still be wary about where they lay it down. These products can potentially irritate the sensitive pads on your pet’s feet—and may be harmful if ingested. If you aren’t able to get your hands on any pet-safe salt, no worries—grab a damp towel and gently wipe your dog’s feet before they have a chance to lick them to avoid potential side effects. 

Bundle up your pup

Humans aren’t the only ones that need to layer up in the winter. In addition to making sure your dog is wearing an ID tag and is properly leashed, consider purchasing a sweater or coat for them to wear outside. Many dogs—especially those with short coats—will be more comfortable. If your pup is tolerant of wearing clothes, they may also benefit from wearing booties or paw covers. These can be used to ensure your dog’s feet are protected while walking outside.

The CAHS recommends being particularly careful when taking older or arthritic animals outside. Michigan’s cold weather can make an older dog’s muscles stiff and tender, which can lead to potential slip-and-fall accidents. 

Car and chemical safety

If you have to run an errand, keep your pets at home. It’s a common misconception that a dog can stay warm in a car—cars can actually act like a refrigerator and hold cold air in. This could lead to putting your dog at risk, no matter how “quick” your errand is. 

Once back home, make sure chemicals are safely stored away. Antifreeze—even in small amounts—can be deadly to pets. While preparing your vehicle for wintery roads is a necessity, make sure to clean up any antifreeze spills in your garage or driveway to avoid a trip to the emergency vet. 

Caring for the community

If you live in an area with a steady flow of community cats, be mindful before you start your car. It’s common for cats and other small animals to seek the warmth of the engine of a parked car, according to CAHS. To avoid injuring any animals hiding under your hood, bang on the hood or honk the horn before starting your engine.

If you are concerned about your community’s cats staying warm this winter, there are inexpensive ways to offer them shelter. Outdoor cat shelters can be easily made using a styrofoam cooler and straw. For more information on how to build your own outdoor animal shelters for the community cats in your area, check out this handy guide from Alley Cat Allies


  • Lucas Henkel

    Lucas Henkel is a multimedia reporter who strives to inform and inspire local communities. Before joining The 'Gander, Lucas served as a journalist for the Lansing City Pulse.

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