Winter weather can be rough on all of us, including our furry friends. Don’t forget to consider the safety of your pets during cold weather. The American Red Cross offers these steps people can follow to help ensure their pet’s safety when chilly weather hits their area.
Bring your pets inside during cold weather. Keepyour animals inside. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals® (ASPCA®) reports if pets are left outdoors, they can freeze, become disoriented, lost, stolen, injured or killed. In addition, don’t leave pets alone in a car during cold weather, as cars can act as refrigerators that hold in the cold and cause animals to freeze to death.
The Humane Society of the United States adds that if pets cannot come indoors, you should make sure they are protected by a dry, draft-free enclosure large enough to allow them to sit and lie down, but small enough to hold in the pet’s body heat. Raise the floor a few inches off the ground and cover it with cedar shavings or straw. Turn the enclosure away from the wind and cover the doorway with waterproof burlap or heavy plastic.
Move other animals or livestock to sheltered areas and make sure they have access to non-frozen drinking water. If the animals are outside, make sure their access to food and water is not blocked by snow drifts, ice or other obstacles.
Protect their paws. Salt and other chemicals used to melt snow and ice can irritate a pet’s paws. Wipe their paws with a damp towel before your pet licks them and irritates their mouth. The ASPCA adds that you can also use petroleum jelly or booties to protect sensitive paws. Use pet-friendly ice melt products.
Take care of their coat and skin. To avoid itchy, flaking skin, the ASPCA recommends keeping your home humidified and towel dry your pet as soon as he or she comes inside. Pay special attention to paws and in-between the toes. Remove any snow from between foot pads. If possible, keep your dog’s coat longer in winter for warmth. If your dog is short-haired, consider getting a coat or sweater for your pet. Keep pet bathing to a minimum when it’s cold to avoid dry skin. If your pet needs a bath, use a moisturizing shampoo.
Antifreeze is a deadly poison. Wipe up spills and store antifreeze out of reach.
Know your pet’s limits outdoors. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) reports you should be aware of how your pet tolerates cold weather and adjust as needed. Consult your veterinarian if you need advice.
Check your engine. 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 make sure a cat hasn’t taken refuge on your engine.
Use space heaters with caution. The heater can burn your pet or be knocked over, possibly starting a home fire.
Watch for hypothermia. If your pet is whining, shivering, anxious, slower than usual 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: Winter can bring blizzards and power outages. Prepare an emergency kit and include your pet in your plans. Have enough food, water and medicine (including any prescription medications as well as heartworm and flea/tick preventives) on hand to get through at least five days.
Avoid walking on frozen water. Stay away from frozen ponds, lakes and other water. You don't know if the ice will support your pet's weight, and falling through the ice could be deadly.
About the American Red Cross:
The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides comfort to victims of disasters; supplies about 40% of the nation's blood; teaches skills that save lives; distributes international humanitarian aid; and supports veterans, military members and their families. The Red Cross is a nonprofit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to deliver its mission. For more information, please visit redcross.org or cruzrojaamericana.org, or visit us on Twitter at @RedCross.