Winter Pet Care
When temperatures dip into the single digits, we need to take the following precautions to ensure the safety and well-being of our pets:
- Shelter, Food, and Water: Cats should be kept inside at all times, year-round, to protect them from the many life-threatening dangers always present outside. Dogs should also live inside. However, if your dog spends a lot of time outside, you are required by law to provide adequate shelter. A proper doghouse must be windproof and watertight, with a floor raised off the ground, and just large enough that the dog is completely comfortable in any position. Bedding such as straw will also help insulate. Make sure your pet has plenty of fresh, clean water in a secure, non-tip dish at all times. Check the water bowl frequently to make sure that the water hasn't frozen.
- Becoming Lost or Injured: Snow and ice increase your animal's chances of becoming disoriented and lost if roaming the streets. Bad weather conditions make it difficult for cars to stop, increasing your animal's chance of getting hit. Keeping your pet indoors and walking your dog on a leash will prevent such tragedies.
- Ice, Salt, and Snow: Jagged ice and sidewalk salt can injure or irritate your dog's foot pads. After you return home from a walk, check the foot pads and wipe off any salt or ice with a damp towel. Also dry your dog thoroughly whenever he or she comes in from the snow.
- Frostbite: Even though companion animals have a fur coat, most cats and dogs cannot endure the cold of winter for more than 10 to 15 minutes. A companion animal left outdoors can get frostbite and even freeze to death. Signs of frostbite include skin that is pale and cool to the touch. If you suspect frostbite, gently warm the area with warm--not hot--water and then take the animal to your veterinarian. After thawing, there may be pain or redness on the frostbitten area. Once an area has been frozen it becomes more susceptible to cold and frostbite.
- Anti-Freeze: Animals are attracted to this substance by its sweet taste. It can be fatal if ingested, so keep all anti-freeze bottles out of your companion animal's reach. Also be sure to clean up any spills in your garage or driveway immediately. If your cat or dog should swallow anti-freeze or any poison contact your veterinarian immediately.
- Car Engines: In cold weather, cats allowed outdoors may climb up inside the hood seeking warmth and shelter. This can lead to injuries or death when the engine is started. To prevent such an occurrence, keep your cat indoors at all times. To protect stray cats, knock on your car's hood or sound your horn before starting the car in cold weather.
- Grooming: Animals tend to shed hair less during the cold months, but they still require regular brushing. Cats generally do not need a bath--they clean themselves. Dogs should be bathed only if needed. When bathing any animal, be sure to only use a shampoo that is specifically safe for a cat or dog and follow label directions.
- Holiday Hazards: Mistletoe, holly and poinsettias are all poisonous to pets. Make sure your holiday tree is steady so it can't be knocked over. Protect your cat or dog from drinking stagnant Christmas tree water; eating candy, chocolate, potentially injurious ornaments, tinsel and trimming; and nibbling on the cords from decorations. Keep an eye on your pets to make sure they don't slip out the door as your visitors come and go. Do not give a cat or dog as a gift—instead, give a gift certificate for a pet adoption from a shelter and allow the recipient to select an animal that is appropriate for their lifestyle.