Many cats and dogs can enjoy and benefit from a heated bed, and there are many product options available, but it’s important for pet parents to both choose the appropriate option and use it safely.
Dogs and cats with thin or no hair who get chilled easily in the wintertime can benefit from a heated bed. Additionally, smaller dogs and cats (including puppies and kittens) have more surface area per pound than larger creatures, which means they can lose body heat more quickly and might require extra warmth. Additionally, older or infirm dogs and cats often appreciate extra warmth for both comfort as well as to soothe achy joints. All of these are great reasons to use a heated bed, as long as you take care to keep your pet safe and comfortable while doing so.
There are three main categories of heated pet beds. Electrical heated beds contain an electrical heating element that plugs into an outlet. Self-heating beds are made of materials that reflect a pet’s own body heat back at it to increase warmth. Finally, heating pads may be added to a pet’s existing bed to increase warmth and comfort.
Find out more about each option and how to keep your pet safe while using them, below:
Thermal Pet Beds
Thermal pet beds contain a reflective insert or are made of materials that reflect your cat or dog’s body heat back towards them to help keep them warm. These beds can be very cozy and of course are very safe since they are not actually creating heat and therefore cannot rise above the body temperature of your pet. They also do not have any electrical wiring that can malfunction or potentially be damaged by a destructive chewer.
Electric Pet Beds and Heating Pads
There are two primary factors pet parents should consider when selecting and using any electric pet bed or heating pad. First and foremost is your individual pet’s propensity to chew the electrical components. Many electrical pet beds have a hard wrapping around the electrical cord to deter chewing, but these safety measures generally make the product chew-resistant, not chew-proof. Given time, a persistent chewer can get through such covering and have a risk of electrocution if they’re able to chew into the wiring. Even if they are not electrocuted, damage to the wiring caused by chewing can cause a future injury as well as be a fire hazard the next time the product is used. Don’t forget about your cats in this situation – while dogs are generally heartier chewers, not all kitties are safe around cords!
The second big safety issue in some heated pet beds is the heat buildup allows for heat settings higher than a pet’s body temperature. When using an electrically-heated device, it is absolutely critical that the pet be able to move away from the bed if they are too warm. Never use a heated bed that can exceed a pet’s temperature in a crate or confined space that does not allow a pet an area away from the heat. Additionally, never use such a mat for an animal with limited ability to reposition themselves, such as one recovering from surgery or one who is too old to easily get up and move when needed.
If an electrically-heated bed must be used in such conditions, ensure the bed is set to a lower temperature and monitor your pet carefully. If a bed is feeling too warm for you to want to keep your own hand between the bed and your pet for long periods of time, it is too hot and poses a risk to your pet’s skin. Additionally, watch for a dog panting, which may be a sign your pet is in pain, uncomfortable or overheating. A change in your pet’s comfort or safety can happen quickly, so supervision is strongly encouraged in such situations. Many beds have thermostats that control temperature based on the animal laying in the bed to reduce such risks.
Microwaveable Heating Pads
Microwaveable heating pads are also available to warm your pet’s bed. These pads are filled with gel or other material intended to hold heat as long as possible. These can be very effective if used carefully. Safety concerns with microwaveable pet heating pads include overheating, so always test your own ability to maintain direct skin contact with the heated product before placing it next to your pet. Ideally, cover the bed with a pillowcase or cloth to provide a layer or safety between your pet and the heating pad. Also, note some homemade or crafted microwaveable heating products use rice or other dry grains as the interior heat-holding substance, which can entice some dogs to chew or eat the product.
Heated Bed Safety Tips
Ideally, any heating product would always be used under supervision. However, this might not always be the case. If the pet will not always be supervised with the product, at least supervise your pet for the first several uses to monitor how the animal is using the product. This will allow you to assess whether they are interested in chewing the electrical components as well as how well they can manage the heat. It also allows you to ensure the product is working well initially and not malfunctioning.
Check the temperature under your pet intermittently to make sure it is a temperature you can enjoy continually on your skin and that it is not too hot to safely contact for extended time. Many products contain thermostats that respond to the body temperature of the occupant, therefore, testing the temperature when your pet has not been laying in the bed is not an accurate test.
Finally, if you are planning to allow your pet to use this product outdoors, ensure the product is rated for outdoor use. Products rated for outdoors are generally designed to be more robust against the elements and safer from weather wear over time. Nonetheless, no matter the quality or outdoor rating, frequently check the bed for any signs of chewing or wear that may increase electrical concerns and risk to your pet.