HICKORY — “Humane Society Catawba County wants everyone to remember if it’s too cold for you, it’s likely too cold for your pet, too,” said Jane Bowers, executive director of the organization. “Extreme weather sometimes calls for extreme measures, and that may mean bringing your outside pets inside.”
Here are some winter weather pet safety tips courtesy of the American Veterinary Medical Association:
– Stay inside. Cats and dogs should be kept inside during cold weather. It’s a common belief that dogs and cats are more resistant than people to cold weather because of their fur, but it’s untrue. Like people, cats and dogs are susceptible to frostbite and hypothermia and should be kept inside. Longer-haired and thick-coated dog breeds, such as huskies and other dogs bred for colder climates, are more tolerant of cold weather; but no pet should be left outside for long periods of time in below-freezing weather.
– Make some noise: A warm vehicle engine can be an appealing heat source for outdoor and feral cats, but it’s deadly. Check underneath your car, bang on the hood, and honk the horn before starting the engine to encourage feline hitchhikers to abandon their roost under the hood.
– Stay home: Hot cars are a known threat to pets, but cold cars also pose significant risk to your pet’s health. You’re already familiar with how a car can rapidly cool down in cold weather; it becomes like a refrigerator, and can rapidly chill your pet. Pets that are young, old, ill, or thin are particularly susceptible to cold environments and should never be left in cold cars. Limit car travel to only that which is necessary, and don’t leave your pet unattended in the vehicle.
– Provide shelter: We don’t recommend keeping any pet outside for long periods of time, but if you are unable to keep your dog inside during cold weather, provide him/her with a warm, solid shelter against wind. Make sure that they have unlimited access to fresh, non-frozen water (by changing the water frequently or using a pet-safe, heated water bowl). The floor of the shelter should be off of the ground (to minimize heat loss into the ground) and the bedding should be thick, dry and changed regularly to provide a warm, dry environment. (HSCC recommends plenty of loose straw bedding for burrowing). The door to the shelter should be positioned away from prevailing winds. (Alley Cat Allies lists several options for building shelters for outside cats on their website: www.alleycat.org)
– Feed well: Keep your pet at a healthy weight throughout the winter. Outdoor pets will require more calories in the winter to generate enough body heat and energy to keep them warm. Talk to your veterinarian about your pet’s nutritional needs during cold weather.
– Wipe down: During walks, your dog’s feet, legs and belly may pick up deicers, antifreeze, or other chemicals that could be toxic. When you get back inside, wipe down (or wash) your pet’s feet, legs and belly to remove these chemicals and reduce the risk that your dog will be poisoned after (s)he licks them off of his/her feet or fur. Consider using pet-safe deicers on your property to protect your pets and the others in your neighborhood.
– Prevent poisoning: Clean up any antifreeze spills quickly, as even small amounts of antifreeze can be deadly.
– Recognize problems: If your pet is whining, shivering, seems anxious, slows down or stops moving, seems weak, or starts looking for warm places to burrow, get them back inside quickly because they are showing signs of hypothermia. Frostbite is harder to detect, and may not be fully recognized until a few days after the damage is done. If you suspect your pet has hypothermia or frostbite, consult your veterinarian immediately.
– Be prepared: Cold weather also brings the risks of severe winter weather and power outages. Prepare a disaster/emergency kit, and include your pet in your plans. Have enough food, water and medicine on hand to get through at least five days.