How to keep pets healthy during winter months in Evanston


Illustration by Olivia Abeyta

Gail Henry, owner and veterinarian at Evanston Animal Hospital, recommended moisturizing paw balm to protect pet’s feet from cold weather.

Aria Wozniak, Reporter

In the paws-itively freezing city of Evanston, it is vital to take steps to keep your furry friends safe during the winter months.

Gail Henry, owner and veterinarian at Evanston Animal Hospital, discussed the impacts harsh seasonal elements tend to have on dogs. She said paw balm is helpful in moisturizing pets’ feet while protecting them against the cold environment. 

For owners whose pets don’t have much fur, Henry said a dog coat is the best way to keep them warm. A jacket and snow booties are the best solution to keeping out the cold and avoiding matted hair, she said. 

“Sometimes, the rule of thumb is if it’s too cold for us to be outside, then most pets shouldn’t be outside either,” Henry said.

Henry also said sidewalk salt is a danger when taking pets for walks on snowy days. She said pet paws and skin can become cracked and damaged when exposed to the rocky granules. 

Ramie Gulyas, owner of Follow Your Nose pet store in Evanston, suggests pet caretakers use pet-friendly salt.

The generic sidewalk salt is dangerous to animals’ skin and can be poisonous if ingested, Gulyas said. It also has the potential to reach temperatures of up to 175 degrees and burn feet that make contact with the salt. 

Gulyas said that many of the pet-friendly formulas are free of salts and chlorides, which are less irritating to pets’ paws than regular sidewalk salt. 

“It’s a little bit more expensive, but it’s much better for the environment and it’s safer for everybody traversing the sidewalk,” Gulyas said.

Maintaining your pets’ exercise routine during the winter is also vital. Henry said it’s normal for most pets to gain an extra layer of protective fat during the cold seasons, but staying active is still a necessity. 

Evanston resident Julie Chernoff owns a mini bernedoodle named Juniper. On icy days, Chernoff keeps Juniper’s outdoor time short and keeps the pup entertained with indoor activity. 

“We just make sure that we play with her more during the day and we do more training (inside),” Chernoff said. “We play a lot of tug of war.”

Henry, Gulyas and Chernoff said puzzle toys are a good way to keep dogs occupied when they can’t play outside. The devices assist the animals in developing good problem-solving skills, eating more slowly and prompting their curiosity. Henry said incorporating food and treat puzzles allows dogs and cats to be more active while they are eating.

These toys are perfect for entertaining dogs and cats during Zoom calls or for when owners are gone during the day, Henry said.

“If your dog is playing with a puzzle toy, that mental stimulation can equal half an hour of going out for a long walk,” Gulyas said.

Adjusting pets to the necessary precautions from winter elements is easiest when they are young. Many animals dislike wearing a coat or booties, but these items can be necessary in the winter. 

Chernoff says while Juniper is used to bundling up, the pup still dislikes booties.

“She makes a long suffering face, but she stands there and she lets us put them on,” Chernoff said. “It’s all just to keep her safe.”

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Twitter: @ari_wozz

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