Keep your furry companions safe during severe weather

Rachel Baldwin rbaldwin@civitasmedia.com

January 8, 2014

Rachel Baldwin


WILLIAMSON - The frigid temperatures and the arctic blast that has Tug Valley residents running for cover and staying inside as much as possible also affects your furry friends, and can sadly, lead to their death if precautions are not put into place to keep them safe from the elements.

The following guidelines will help you protect your companion animals when the mercury dips:

Keep your cat inside. Outdoors, felines can freeze, become lost or be stolen, injured or killed more quickly than canines. Cats that are allowed to stray are exposed to infectious diseases including rabies, from other cats, dogs and wildlife.

During the winter, outdoor cats sometimes sleep under the hoods of cars. When the motor is started, the cat can be injured or killed by the fan belt. If there are outdoor cats in your area, bang loudly on the car hood before starting the engine to give the cat a chance to escape.

Never let your dog off the leash on snow or ice, especially during a snowstorm, dogs can lose 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

Thoroughly wipe off your dog’s legs and stomach when he comes in out of the sleet, snow or ice. He can ingest salt, antifreeze or other potentially dangerous chemicals while licking his paws and his paw pads may also bleed from snow or encrusted ice.

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. Own a short-haired breed? Consider getting him a coat or sweater with a high collar or turtleneck with coverage from the base of the tail to the belly. For many dogs, this is regulation winter wear.

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 the animal to freeze to death. Puppies do not tolerate the cold as well as adult dogs, and may be difficult to housebreak during the winter.

If your puppy appears to be sensitive to the weather, you may opt to paper-train him inside and begin the outdoor training after the weather breaks. If your dog is sensitive to the cold due to age, illness or breed type, take him outdoors only to relieve himself.

Does your dog spend a lot of time engaged in outdoor activities? Increase his supply of food, particularly protein, to keep him, and his fur, in tip-top shape. Coolant or antifreeze is a lethal poison for dogs and cats. Be sure to thoroughly clean up any spills from your vehicle, and consider using products that contain propylene-glycol rather than ethylene-glycol. Visit the website for the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center for more information.

Remember; make sure your furry companion has a warm place to sleep, off the floor and away from all drafts. A cozy dog or cat bed with a warm blanket or pillow is perfect. If the animal must remain outdoors, install a heating pad in the dog house, insulate it well and turn it to where the opening is protected from the wind. Water will freeze as quickly as it is poured into a pet’s dish during these frigid temperatures, so always make sure your pet has access to water and plenty of food.

Have pity on strays without a place to stay. Open you home, a garage or a heated outbuilding and allow them a safe, warm haven to occupy while the bone-chilling cold continues to pound our local communities.