Winter is not far away and temperatures have already started to dip in many places all over the world. This got me thinking on the importance of safety for all animals, whether they are safe or out in the outdoors, perhaps dumped by a careless human being, turning his/her back as the puppies or kittens cry out wondering what they are to do and how cold it is.
I know the simple thing is to encourage everyone to bring their animals indoors, but what if your pet is lost or there is a feral dog or cat shivering? How easy will it be to bring them inside? I know some very hard working rescue organizations will set out very humane traps to help catch cats and sometimes dogs in the hopes of bringing them inside away from the cold.
One year I rescued a kitten who was covered in snow against a gas station. A little black and white baby, who was maybe 3 months if that, completely covered and buried in snow behind a dumpster. When I heard his cries, I asked the attendant if it was his or someone else. He said no, that it had been hanging around and the boss was annoyed by it. Annoyed, I chose to scoop him up and take him with me. He was shivering and had little icicles on his eyelashes. I wasn’t sure if he would make it, but keeping him on my lap as I drove away, wrapped in my scarf, he started to warm up. I contacted a friend who worked at a boarding place where I took my dogs to and she said she would ask around. Well a few hours later I received a call that the cat had a new home because a lady had come in asking if anyone knew if someone had any cats up for adoption because she had just had hers put to sleep recently. That cat is probably 5 or 6 years old now and lives a very good life.
So here are some thoughts that come to mind to help your pet stay safe during the colder, dreary winter weather season.
• Bring Your Pet Inside.
Don’t leave your pet outside in the cold for prolonged periods of time. Remember — thermometers might show one temperature, but wind chills can make it feel much colder.
Limit time outdoors and be mindful of frostbite on ears, tail and feet. If you run with your dog, pay attention to cold paws and if it gets too cold, leave your pup at home.
Cats should always be left indoors. “Outdoor” cats are often victims of road traffic, wild animals, dogs and cruel people.
• Acclimate Your Pet to Cold Weather.
If your pets spend a lot of time outdoors, make sure to introduce them gradually to dropping temperatures, rather than exposing them to the extreme cold all at once.
• Provide Adequate Shelter.
Adequate shelter is mandated by law. If your dog lives outdoors, you must provide a well-insulated and draft-free doghouse. The opening should face south with a sturdy, flexible covering to prevent icy winds from entering. Line the floors of the shelter with straw, not hay. Towels and blankets can become damp or freeze, making the space colder.
• Beware of Antifreeze and Rock Salt.
Antifreeze often collects on driveways and roadways. Although it smells and tastes sweet to your pet, it is lethally poisonous. If you suspect your pet has ingested antifreeze, contact your veterinarian immediately!
Deicing products like rock salt can irritate footpads. Be sure to rinse and dry your pet’s feet after being outside. Pet stores often carry pet-safe ice melts that do the job and won’t harm your pets.
• Dry Off Wet Pets.
A wet pet is a cold pet. Towel or blow-dry your pet if he gets wet from rain or snow. Also, it is important to clean and dry paws to prevent tiny cuts and cracked pads.
• Provide Plenty of Food and Water.
It takes more energy in the winter to properly regulate body temperature, so your pet needs additional calories if he spends a lot of time playing or working outdoors. Your pet is just as likely to get dehydrated in the winter as in the summer, so be sure to provide plenty of fresh water.
Snow is not a substitute for water. Refill outside bowls often to prevent freezing.
• Carefully Keep Pets Warm Inside.
Keep your pets warm, dry and away from drafts while inside. Space heaters and other supplemental heat sources can burn your pet. Keep portable heaters out of reach and make sure all fireplaces have adequate screening. And, of course, never leave your pet alone with an unattended fire.
• Groom Regularly.
Your pet needs a well-groomed coat to keep him properly insulated. Short- or coarse-haired dogs might get extra cold so consider a sweater or a coat. Long-haired dogs should have their paw hair trimmed to ease in cleaning and snow removal.