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Keep Your Pets Safe and Calm During a Winter Storm. Here's How

Learn how to brave a winter storm with your furry friend.

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Try these tips to keep your pet safe during a winter storm.
Westend61/Getty Images

This story is part of Home Tips, CNET's collection of practical advice for getting the most out of your home, inside and out.

Cold weather is already here in many parts of the US -- and the ongoing effects of climate change are only going to create more outlier weather events, extreme temperatures and storms

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While you might think that you can just ride out winter curled up close with your favorite four-legged friend, the reality is that winter storms mean more responsibility for a pet owner. You need to make sure that your dog, cat or any other pet you count on for companionship has everything that it needs in order to make it through the winter. 

Here's how to prepare to get through a storm with your furry friend. For more winter storm prep tips, find out how to prevent your pipes from bursting, how to prepare your solar panels for snow and ice, and 10 home maintenance tips for the cold months

Stock up on supplies

The worst-case scenario when it comes to a winter storm is the very real possibility of getting stuck in place for an extended period of time. When snow starts to pile up, it make it nearly impossible to get out of your home -- especially if your city or municipality isn't prepared for the storm and can't clear the roads. If this happens, you're going to want to make sure that you have all of the things that you need to ride out the storm. That includes food and essentials for you and your pet.

Check your pet's supplies and make sure that you have everything you need to get them through at least a two-week period. Fingers crossed that you never go that long without being able to safely leave home and stock up on supplies. Don't forget that if you can't get out, odds are delivery services like Chewy aren't going to be able to deliver to you either, so don't count on those options being available. 

On top of food, you're going to want to make sure that you have a supply of any medications that your pet might need. While you might be able to replace their food with a human alternative like plain chicken, certain vegetables and rice, you're not going to be able to substitute their medications. 

Think beyond food too. Have extra cat litter on hand. If you have a dog who is going to struggle to get outside during the storm, consider having a stash of pee pads available -- and plastic bags to stash the waste in. You may want to stock up on bottled water just in case pipes freeze. Think through your average day with your pet and everything that it needs during that time, and make sure you have a solution available to you in case you and your companion get stranded for any period of time.

Get warm and protective clothes

Have you ever tried explaining something to your pet? It usually doesn't go well. So good luck telling your dog that they aren't able to go outside because it's too cold. Instead, it's easier to get them some specialized cold weather gear so they can still go outside as needed, even when the temperature is dropping. Pick up a jacket to provide them with extra warmth. Grab booties to cover their paws and keep them safe both from frostbite and from potentially harmful chemicals that can be found in sidewalk salts and other materials.

As a general rule, consider 45 degrees Fahrenheit to be the breaking point for most pets. Most furry friends will be fine as long as the temperature remains above this level. But if it drops below and starts creeping toward freezing, you'll want to try to limit exposure to the cold as much as possible. Cover them up before letting them outside for any extended period if it drops below 45 degrees. 

Create a safe, warm space for your pet

If a winter storm comes barreling through where you live, there's a decent chance that you may lose power -- either temporarily or for an extended period of time. Even warmer regions aren't safe from this distinct possibility. Remember what happened when freezing temperatures struck Texas a couple of years ago? That was enough to leave millions of people without power for days.

If that happens, you're going to want to make sure that you have the materials you need for your pet to keep them warm. Pets like dogs and cats tend to have a higher internal body temperature than humans and typically have furry coats that keep them warm, but they are still susceptible to the cold. 

With that in mind, consider creating a spot within your home where your pet can retire to stay warm through the storm. Make it cozy and small so they feel safe, with plenty of blankets for them to burrow into. Stock it with comfort items, including a favorite toy and treats so they are incentivized to use it. It'll be ideal for them to use during cold spells and serves as a safe haven.

Update your pet's ID tag

During a storm, you always want to be prepared for the worst. That includes the possibility that your pet gets lost, locked out or trapped outside. Given the very real threat that cold weather presents to warm-blooded creatures, your pet will likely go seeking shelter wherever they can find it. That might mean at a neighbor's home where they can get out of the storm or it might be at a shelter if they get picked up by someone who sees them wandering around outside without an owner.

No matter who finds your pet, you're going to want to make sure they can get home. That means making sure they wear their collar when they go outside and have a tag with updated information on it. It is recommended that you put your phone number on the tag rather than your address so you can be contacted by the person who finds your pet -- though if you can fit your address, putting both isn't a bad idea.

You should also make sure that your pet is microchipped. This process is simple and can often be done for an affordable price by your local humane society, animal shelter or veterinarian office. Studies have found that microchipped pets are twice as likely to be returned to their owner as those who are not microchipped. It's a worthwhile measure to take to make sure you and your pet aren't separated for too long.

Winter storms are an unfortunate reality, and while the Big One might not hit this season, there's always the possibility of a major storm causing damage and interruption to your daily life. When that happens, the best thing that you can do is be prepared on behalf of your pet. Stay stocked up on everything that you may need in case a storm hits so you and your pet can rest assured that you'll be safe together. 

For more tips, check out how bad weather could impact your internet connection, and how to save the food in your fridge if the power goes out