Winter Storm Tips For Pet Owners

SAN DIEGO, Calif.  – As the winter storm Nemo approaches the Northeast, Petco and pet lifestyle expert, Sandy Robins, have teamed up to help pet owners look out for their pets during the winter weather.

Physical Safety

  • Keep pets inside. A pet left outside in the elements can be injured or die. In addition, pets who are left outside can become easily lost. Never let a dog off leash on snow or ice, especially during a snowstorm, as they can lose their sense of smell and become easily lost.
  • Outdoor cats will often sleep under the hood of the car to stay warm and can be injured when the motor is started. Be sure to bang loudly on the car hood before starting the engine to give the cat a chance to escape.
  • Before taking a dog outside, make sure to keep hair around its paws trimmed so they gather less snow or water, which can freeze in cold weather making it difficult for animals to walk. Their paws may also bleed from snow or ice so wearing booties while outside is another preventative measure.
  • Wipe off a dog’s legs and stomach when they come back inside, as they can accidentally ingest salt, anti-freeze or other chemicals picked up from the ground outside when grooming themselves.
  • If pets are staying in the garage, make sure chemicals such as antifreeze are out of reach. This sweet liquid is deadly for animals if ingested.
  • Rather than using rock salt, look for pet safe ice melt if needed. Rock salt can be irritating to paws, mouths and stomachs.
  • Never leave a dog or cat alone in a car during cold weather. A car can act as a freezer, putting the pet in danger.
  • Smaller, light-weight dog breeds, toy breeds and breeds that have naturally short or thin hair can benefit from a warm dog sweater or coat when they need to go outside. Dogs that tend to have short-cropped hair should also be given a sweater to protect them from low temperatures. Also, older dogs with weaker immune systems and dogs with diseases that impair hair growth typically need an extra source for warmth. For added safety, Petco LuvGear ColdAlert jackets utilize technology that warns pet parents when it’s too cold for dogs to be outside.

Important points to remember for aquarium owners:

  • If power is lost during a storm, do not feed fish. Depending on how long the power is out, test the water and if needed, complete a water change before feeding fish. Resume feeding fish once power is restored.
  • Cover their tank with a blanket to help prevent heat from escaping.
  • Have a check valve and/or drip loop to prevent water from getting into electrical outlets when the power returns. Make sure the cords running from the tank touch the ground before looping back up to the plug. This is called a “drip loop” and prevents water from running down the cord into electrical sockets.
  • If the power is going to be out for a while, performing partial water changes will help maintain water quality.

Avoid Losing Pets

  • Keep current photographs of pets with important documents. If a pet is lost during a disaster, a sharp, recent photo can be used to make flyers.
  • Keep an up-to-date identification tag securely fastened on pets. If a pet gets out or flees from a scary scene, this will greatly increase the chance they will be returned. Take this measure even for indoor cats. Use breakaway collars, and make sure cats can slip their head out if the collar gets caught on something. Having a cellular telephone number on a pets ID tag instead of a home number is recommended because if there is an evacuation, no one will be home to answer phone calls. Also consider getting microchip IDs for animals.


  • When being evacuated, do not leave pets behind. Remember to take all pets including birds, reptiles, hamsters, rabbits, etc. In case of an emergency evacuation, it is always a good idea to keep an extra harness in vehicles as well as an emergency kit as an extra precaution. Also, make sure to keep a carrier and seatbelt harness for each pet in the car to ensure safe transportation of pets. Put the pet’s name along with the pet parent’s name and phone number on the crate or habitat that the pet will be transported in. This will ensure someone can reach pet parents that are separated from their animal. If transporting small animals, birds, or reptiles and their habitats, this may require additional attention and care to help decrease chances of stress-induced illness and death. It is important to keep pets from different species as separate as possible and maintain the best possible hygiene in order to decrease disease transmission.
  • When transporting animals, park or move the car close to the house and ensure the car is warm before putting a companion animal in the car. If using a carrier to transport a pet, cover the carrier for transport to and from the car to help keep out the cold and wind, but remove the cover once in the car for better ventilation. Plan travel routes in advance so that companion animals are taken directly to intended destinations and take the animal inside the new location first prior to bringing in any other item.
  • Prior to the storm, check with a veterinarian, local animal hospital, kennel or shelter to see if dogs or other pets can be boarded during a disaster. Be prepared to submit current medical records. Put together a “pet network,” in which arrangements are already made with someone outside of the immediate area to care for each other’s pets in a crisis. The same goes for birds, reptiles, fish, hamsters, and any other companion animal in the household.
  • Make sure to have a pet “emergency kit” on hand. This waterproof bag should include pet food and dishes, bottled water, treats, a can opener, medications, potty pads, paper towels and cleaning supplies, copies of pets’ medical records (in a waterproof container), toys, leashes, harnesses, collars, current photos and contact numbers. It’s also important to have a pet’s regular medications. Keeping familiar beds and blankets in the emergency kit can help put pets at emotionally at ease if they are evacuated to an unfamiliar location. For cats, also pack disposable litter pans, litter and a scoop. For small animals, reptiles and fish, be sure to include extra bedding or substrate. Always have at least one week’s supply of water in storage for animals. If the drinking water gets contaminated in a disaster, it’s not safe for people or pets.

Keeping Pets Mentally and Emotionally at Ease

  • Make sure pets have a warm place to sleep, off the floor and away from all drafts. A cozy bed with a warm blanket or pillow can do wonders for keeping pets emotionally happy. The same goes for small animals, birds, and reptiles. Make sure habitats are away from windows and drafty areas of the house that are often colder than others.
  • Ten minutes of thinking play can equal 45 minutes of active, outdoor play for pets. During stressful situations such as evacuations or storms, keep pets mentally stimulated and entertained with food puzzles. There are even puzzles for hamsters such as the bedding that hamster’s can sort by color and size.
  • Most importantly, help pets feel emotionally at ease. When the family is stressed, most pets will feel it too. Bringing along their favorite blanket or toy can often help ease anxiety. There are also calming agents and products like the Thundershirt.

For more information on caring for a pet’s physical, mental, social and emotional health, visit:

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