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Keeping Your Pets Safe in Cold Weather

Thursday January 15, 2009

Keeping Your Pets Safe in Cold WeatherMetro Animal Services is urging pet owners to take a few common sense precautions to safe guard their pets against bitter cold temperatures.

Despite their “fur” coats, domesticated animals like cats and dogs depend on humans for protection from elements such as freezing temperatures. Metro Animal Services is offering the following suggestions to help keep all pets safe through the cold winter months.

  • Don't leave pets outdoors when the temperature drops below freezing (32 degrees). Dogs need outdoor exercise but take care not to keep them out for lengthy periods during very cold weather. Dogs who are allowed to roam off leash might lose their scent in the snow and ice, making it harder to find their way home. Short-coated dogs may feel more comfortable wearing a sweater during walks. 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.
  • 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 and lie down comfortably, but small enough to hold in his/her body heat. Bigger is not better in this case. 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 time 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 who 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.
  • Never leave your dog, cat, or any other animal friend alone in the very cold weather. A car can act like a refrigerator and your animal could freeze.
  • Old, young and sick animals and certain breeds can be more sensitive to the cold, be sure to take that into consideration when letting them outdoors.
  • De-icing chemicals are hazardous. The salt and other chemicals used to melt snow and ice can irritate the pads of your pet’s feet. They can also cause stomach upset if ingested. Wipe your pet’s feet with a damp towel every time after coming in from outdoors – even if you don’t see salt on walkways.
  • Antifreeze is a deadly poison. Its sweet taste 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.

Probably the best prescription for winter’s woes is to keep your dog or cat inside with you and your family. The happiest dogs are those who are taken out frequently for walks and exercise but kept inside the rest of the time. Dogs and cats are social animals who crave human companionship. Your animal companions deserve to live indoors with you and your family.