Grand Prairie Animal Shelter Reminds Residents to Protect Pets in Cold Weather
Any dog or cat will suffer if left outside in extremely low temperatures, but shorthaired breeds, as well as young, old or ill pets are most susceptible to hypothermia, a potentially deadly condition where body temperature falls below normal. Signs include shivering, lethargy and lack of coordination. As the condition progresses, pets may become comatose and die.
Extra precautions during winter months will make sure your four-footed family members stay safe and warm. Help your pets remain happy and healthy during the colder months by following these simple guidelines:
- Keep your cat inside. Outdoors, felines can freeze, become lost or be stolen, injured or killed. Cats who 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. 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.
- No matter what the temperature is wind chill can threaten a pet's life. Pets are sensitive to severe cold and are at risk for frostbite and hypothermia when they are outdoors during extreme cold snaps. Exposed skin on noses, ears, and paw pads can quickly freeze and suffer permanent damage.
- 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. 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.
- Like coolant, 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 ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center more information.
- Make sure your companion animal 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.
- Consider using a heated water bowl to keep your pet's water from freezing. Failing this, a floating ball will help to stop ice forming across the entire surface. Check to make sure that ice or snow accumulation has not blocked your dog's access to food, water, or other needs.
A dog or cat is happiest and healthiest when kept indoors. If for some reason your pet is outdoors much of the day, per City Ordinance section 5-1, he or she must be protected by a dry, draft-free shelter that is large enough to allow the animal 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. For multi-dog families, each pet needs his or her own house.
The best way to keep your pets safe and happy is to keep them with you.