Winter in Florida may be relatively short and not terribly frigid (unless you were born here and then you think anything under 70 degrees is cause to turn on the heater), but we are probably in for two or three months of chilly mornings, warm afternoons and the occasional frosty night. As you curl up with a cozy blanket, don’t forget about your pet!

Dogs and cats have fur coats, but they can still get cold, especially if exposed to winds and water. Hopefully you, as one of our readers, keep your pets primarily indoors snuggled up with you, but if your pet lives outdoors, make sure to provide a fully sheltered den. Place blankets or hay inside. The shelter should be elevated enough that, if it rains, water cannot puddle inside. If news reporters talk about bringing pets and plants inside, please bring your pets inside. If you don’t, you might just get a friendly visit from Animal Services.

If you know of anyone who keeps their pets outdoors who needs assistance with shelter or getting them inside, please let us know. We are here to help.

A winter hazard to pets is antifreeze. Many of us in Florida don’t even use antifreeze, but if you do, make sure you store it away from where a curious pet can get into it. Make sure pets do not walk through or lay in spots where it might have spilled or leaked from the car. Cats especially are susceptible because of their meticulous grooming habits. Dogs are attracted to the sweet taste of antifreeze. If you suspect that a pet has ingested antifreeze, do not wait for symptoms- get your pet to your veterinarian right away.

We don’t always think about nutritional needs changing with the weather, but outdoor pets in particular require more calories in the winter to generate enough energy to cope with cold.

Fewer hours of daylight mean fewer chances to exercise during the winter months. Young and energetic dogs who require lots of active play can develop problem behaviors, so try to include your pet in your regular exercise. Go for walks with your pet or play in the park for a few minutes. Fresh air and sunlight are the two most important ingredients that fight our winter blues.

Of course, winter’s cold affects our other pets too. Many families have outdoor hutches for pet rabbits. Rabbits actually handle cold better than extreme heat, but we still need to add extra bedding, making sure that everything stays dry at all times.

Getting wet in the cold is a serious danger to rabbits. They can develop hypothermia. Make sure their hutches are completely waterproof. Older rabbits should be brought in when it gets very cold. Many elderly rabbits will have a lower body fat density, making it difficult to keep themselves warm. Rabbits tend to develop arthritis as they get older, which can cause your rabbit to be in discomfort, especially in cold weather.

No matter what species of pet you parent, keep in mind that if it feels cold to you, it probably feels cold to them. Put a blankie on your horse, move your bird cage away from drafty doors and windows, snuggle up to a good book with your guinea pig and watch videos of goats in Christmas pajamas. Stay warm, everyone!