Pets need extra care as temperatures drop

By William Duffield Staff writer

January 4, 2014

XENIA — When cold weather moves in, the human race tends to “hunker down” until temperatures go back to normal. But there is also another group that needs to be looked after when temperatures are freezing outside.

The American Humane Society suggests “The best way to keep your pets safe (and happy) is to keep them with you.”

Among other pet-friendly sites, pet owners can learn how to care for their animal friends when winter weather turns frigid.

• Keep an eye on older pets. The colder weather makes old joints ache.

• Some pets may be conditioned to the cold, but veterinary experts suggest to bring pets inside when the temperature drops below 20 degrees. Puppies, kittens and short-haired pets should come inside any time the temperature goes below 40 degrees.

• Don’t leave dogs or cats outdoors when the temperature drops. Most dogs, and all cats, are safer indoors, except when taken out for exercise. No matter what the temperature, wind chill can threaten a pet’s life.

• Make sure to wipe off or clean the feet and belly of a dog or cat when they come inside to make sure salt or other chemicals are removed. These can make your animal sick.

• Cats love to be in a warm, cozy place. This includes under car hoods. If your car sits outside, give the hood a rap prior to starting the engine to send any slumbering kitty scurrying.

• Antifreeze is always a problem in winter. If you spill antifreeze, clean it up as soon as possible to keep your four-legged friend from thinking its a treat. Dilute the area with water and sweep the excess water into a rocky or sandy area. Cover the area to keep pets from licking at the rocks. If you think your pet may have consumed antifreeze, contact your veterinarian immediately.

• A dog or cat is happiest and healthiest when kept indoors. If, for some reason, your dog is outdoors much of the day, your friend must be protected by a dry, draft-free shelter that is large enough to allow the dog to sit and lie down comfortably, but small enough to hold in his 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.

• If you see animals left outside without shelter for an extended period of time, contact authorities.

• If there are outdoor cats in your neighborhood, either owned pets or community cats (feral cats who are scared of people and strays who are lost or abandoned pets), remember they need protection from the elements as well as food and water. It’s easy to give them a hand.

• 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. In the winter, a pet’s tongue can stick and freeze to metal.

Of course, the best way to keep your pet warm is to keep them on your lap.

Contact William Duffield at bduffield@civitasmedia.com or 372-4444 ext. 133.