Winter is upon us, so don’t forget Man’s Best Friend (Lassie, Rin-Tin-Tin or Fido) can also be affected by the cold days and nights ahead.
The Human Society of the United States (HSUS), the world’s largest animal protection organization, is urging pet owners to take a few common sense precautions to safe guard their pets from the bitter cold.
Despite their fur coats, domesticated animals like cats and dogs depend on humans for protection from elements such as freezing temperatures. The HSUS is offering the following suggestions to help keep all pets safe through the cold winter months:
Don’t leave pets outdoors when the temperatures drop below freezing. Dogs need outdoor exercise but take care not to keep them out for lengthy periods during very cold weather. Short-coated dogs may feel more comfortable wearing a sweater during walks. Never let your dog off of the leash on snow or ice, especially during a snowstorm, dogs can loose their scent and easily become lost. More dogs are lost during the winter than during any other season, so make sure yours always wears ID tags. Dogs and cats are safer indoors in all sorts of weather. Animals should never be left outdoors unattended as they risk being stolen or otherwise being harmed. Cats who are allowed to roam/stray are exposed to infectious diseases, including rabies from other cats, dogs and wildlife.
Wind chill can threaten a pet’s life, no matter what the temperature. Outdoor dogs must be protected by a dry, draft-free doghouse that is large enough to allow the dog to sit or lie down comfortably, but small enough to retain his/her body heat. The floor should be raised a few inches off the ground and covered with cedar shavings or straw. The house should be turned to face away from the wind, and the doorway should be covered with a flap of heavy waterproof fabric or heavy plastic.
Pets spending a lot of times outdoors need more food in the winter. Keeping warm depletes energy. Routinely check your pet’s water dish to make certain the water is fresh and not frozen. Use plastic food and water bowls rather than metal; when the temperature is low, your pet’s tongue can stick and freeze to metal.
Warm car engines are dangerous for cats and small wildlife. Parked cars attract small animals that may crawl up under the hood looking for warmth. To avoid injuring any hidden animals, bang on your car’s hood to scare them away before starting your engine.
De-icing chemicals are hazardous. The salt and other chemicals used to melt snow and ice can irritate the pad’s of your pet’s feet. Wipe the feet with a damp cloth every time after coming in from outside even if you don’t see salt on your sidewalks.
Antifreeze is a deadly poison. It has a sweet taste that attracts animals and children. Wipe up spills and store antifreeze out of reach. Better yet, use antifreeze-coolant made with propylene glycol; if swallowed in small amounts, it will not hurt pets, wildlife or people.
Never shave your dog down to the skin in winter, as a longer coat will provide more warmth. When you bathe your dog in the colder months, be sure to completely dry him before taking him out for a walk.
Never leave your dog or cat alone in a car during cold weather. A car can act as a refrigerator in the winter, holding in the cold and causing animals to freeze to death.
Just remember, if it is cold and uncomfortable for you, than it is also too cold and uncomfortable for your pet.
Your pet will thank you many times over for providing this extra care during the bitter, cold winter months.