Pet care tips for wintry weather

The Kansas City area has already endured some bone-chilling days, and winter has just begun. The forecast for the coming week indicates that temperatures will drop into the single-digits at night, and we can count on plenty of snow, sleet, and freezing temperatures in the months ahead.

Whenever the temperature dips near or below freezing, it’s important to take extra steps to protect your furry friends. Just because cats and dogs have fur doesn’t make them immune to winter’s chill!

If you are an experienced pet owner, you may have noticed that many pets love playing and exploring in the snow – just like children who don’t want to come in from sledding even though they are shivering and turning blue.

Always remember that your pets need extra supervision in cold weather. It’s up to you to be sure your animal companions are safe and warm.

To help you avoid common cold-weather dangers, here are some helpful guidelines, courtesy of the Humane Society of the United States.

Keep your pets inside
Most dogs – and all cats – are safer indoors, except when taken out for exercise. This becomes even more important when the weather adds to the dangers.

  • Don’t leave dogs outdoors when the temperature drops.
  • Shorthaired dogs should never be left outside in cold weather without supervision. Short-coated dogs may feel more comfortable wearing a sweater during walks.
  • Regardless of the season, very young dogs, very old dogs, and all cats should never be left outside without supervision.

Keep a close eye on food and water

  • Pets who spend a lot of time outdoors need more food in the winter because keeping warm depletes energy.
  • Routinely check your pet’s water dish to make certain the water is fresh and unfrozen. Use plastic food and water bowls rather than metal. When the temperature is low, your pet’s tongue can stick and freeze to metal.

Doghouses must be weather-proofed
No matter what the temperature, wind chill can threaten a pet’s life. A dog or cat is happiest and healthiest when kept indoors.

However, if your dog is an outdoor dog, be sure your doghouse adheres to the following guidelines:

  • Provide 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.
  • 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 waterproof burlap or heavy plastic.

Even if your dog is accustomed to sleeping in a doghouse, consider making an exception on those nights when the temperature and wind chill are below freezing. If it’s dangerous for humans, it’s dangerous for your dog.

More cold-weather hazards

  • Warm engines in parked cars attract cats and small wildlife, who may crawl up under the hood. To avoid injuring any hidden animals, bang on your car’s hood to scare them away before starting your engine.
  • The salt and other chemicals used to melt snow and ice can irritate the pads of your pet’s feet. Wipe the feet with a damp towel before your pet licks them and irritates his/her mouth.
  • Antifreeze is a deadly poison, but it has a sweet taste that may attract animals and children. Wipe up spills and store antifreeze (and all household chemicals) out of reach. Better yet, use antifreeze-coolant made with propylene glycol; if swallowed in small amounts, it will not hurt pets, wildlife, or your family.

These tips are from the HUSUS fact sheet Protect Your Pet from Winter’s Woes.

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