- Don’t leave dogs outdoors when the temperature drops. Bring animals inside, particularly puppies and kittens, elderly animals, small animals and dogs with short hair, including pointers, beagles, Rottweilers, pit bulls, and Dobermans. Shorthaired animals will also benefit from a cozy sweater or coat.
- No matter what the temperature, wind chill can threaten a pet’s life. A dog is happiest and healthiest when kept indoors. If your dog is an outdoor dog, however, he/she must be protected by 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. Doghouses should be made of wood or plastic (metal conducts cold) and positioned in a sunny, sheltered location during cold weather. The house should face south, away from the wind. Raise the house off the ground several inches and the doorway should be covered with waterproof burlap. Use straw for bedding-rugs and blankets hold moisture and freeze up.
- Don’t allow your cat or dog to roam freely outdoors. During winter, cats sometimes climb up under the hoods of cars to be near warm engines and are killed or badly injured when the car is started. (To help prevent this, bang loudly on the hood of your car before starting the engine.) Animals can also become disoriented when there is snow or ice on the ground. More animals are lost during the winter than any other season.
- 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. Use electric heated water bowls.
- Salt and other chemicals can make an animal sick if they are ingested while the animal grooms himself or herself. Clean off your dog’s or cat’s legs, feet and stomach after coming in from the snow.
- Antifreeze is a deadly poison, but it has a sweet taste that may attract animals. Wipe up spills and store antifreeze out of reach. Buy antifreeze made with propylene glycol (brands include Sierra and Prestone Lowtox) instead of ethylene glycol, which is a deadly poison even in small doses.
- Keep an eye out for strays, too. Bring unidentified animals inside until you can find their guardian or take them to an animal shelter. If strays are wild or unapproachable, provide food, water and shelter (stray cats will appreciate a small doghouse filled with warm bedding) and call the local humane society for information about trapping them and getting them safely indoors.
The best protection for your dog is inside with you and your family. The happiest dogs are those who are taken out frequently for walks and exercise but kept inside the rest of the time. Dogs are social animals that crave human companionship. Your animal companions deserve to live indoors with you and your family.