Cold Weather Tips to Protect Your Pet - WVVA TV Bluefield Beckley WV News, Weather and Sports

Cold Weather Tips to Protect Your Pet

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Amanda Lester Amanda Lester
Lorie White Lorie White
Sara Freeman Sara Freeman
Stacy Cline Stacy Cline
Rhonda Jones Rhonda Jones

When the weather outside turns cold and snowy, The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals reminds you to think about your pet's safety and recommends the following guidelines to protect your companion animal:


  • Keep your cat inside. Outdoors, cats can freeze, become lost or be stolen, injured or killed. Cats who are allowed to stray are exposed to fatal infectious diseases, including rabies. Cats also prey on 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. Before starting the engine, bang loudly on the car hood 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 they always wear I.D. 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 chemicals while licking his paws, and his paw pads may also bleed from snow or encrusted ice.
  • Own a short-haired breed? Consider getting him a coat or sweater with a high collar or turtleneck that covers the dog from the base of the tail on top to the belly underneath. While this may seem like a luxury, it is a necessity for many dogs.
  • 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. The animal can freeze to death. If your dog is sensitive to the cold due to age, illness or breed type, take him outdoors only to relieve himself.
  • Puppies do not tolerate the cold as well as adult dogs and may be difficult to housebreak during the winter. If necessary, papertrain your puppy inside if he appears to be sensitive to the weather.
  • If your dog spends a lot of time engaged in outdoor activities, increase his supply of food, particularly protein, to keep his fur thick and healthy.
  • 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 section of our site for more information.
  • Never shave your dog down to the skin in winter. Leave the coat longer for more warmth. When you bathe your dog, completely dry him before taking him out for a walk.
  • Make sure your companion animal has a warm place to sleep away from all drafts and off the floor, such as in a dog or cat bed with a warm blanket or pillow in it.
  • Don't leave dogs outdoors when the temperature drops. Most dogs, and all cats, are safer indoors, except when taken out for exercise. Regardless of the season, shorthaired, very young, or old dogs and all cats should never be left outside without supervision. Short-coated dogs may feel more comfortable wearing a sweater during walks.
  • No matter what the temperature, windchill can threaten a pet's life. A dog or cat 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. 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Probably the best prescription for winter's woes is to keep your dog or cat 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 and cats are social animals who crave human companionship. Your animal companions deserve to live indoors with you and your family.


Copyright © 2004 The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). All rights reserved.

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