Humane Society of Missouri

BRRRRR… I’ts Cold Outside!

by Suzanne K. Gassner

When the temperature (and the snow) begins to fall, pets need extra care. Here are some helpful suggestions to make the winter season more bearable for your pet.

Cats and dogs need protection from wet and cold and are happiest and healthiest when kept indoors as part of your family. When outdoors for even short amounts of time, dogs needs a dry, elevated doghouse with clean, dry bedding (straw works best) and a flap over the opening to keep drafts out. Or, consider adding a dog door to the garage with a soft cushion in the warmest corner.

A bowl of frozen water cannot help a thirsty pet. Check outdoor water bowls often when it is below freezing, and break the ice or refill with water as necessary.

Outdoor dogs need more calories in the winter to produce body heat, so increase the amount you feed your pet. On the other hand, indoor dogs and cats may get less exercise in the cold months, and will need fewer calories to avoid weight gain.

Check your pet’s paws after a walk. Rock salt, sand or chemicals used to melt snow on sidewalks can irritate pets’ paws. These chemicals can become imbedded in the paws and may cause burns to the feet and mouth of a pet as they lick their paws. You may need to wipe them with a wet cloth after an outing. Dogs outside in the snow may need the ice between their paw pads removed.

Antifreeze tastes good to pets, but it is a deadly poison. The most likely source of the poison is radiator drainage spots in your garage, which should be flushed with water immediately. Wipe up any spillage immediately when adding fluids to the car. Dispose of used antifreeze properly so that it is not a threat to strays and wildlife.

A cat may crawl up under your car seeking shelter and warmth near the engine. It may get caught in the fan and seriously injured when the engine starts. Open the hood of your car, honk your horn or slap the hood noisily with your hand before starting the engine on cold days to startle any animal seeking shelter.

Signs of frostbite include reddened or pale skin and itching. Be sure your pet is seen immediately by a veterinarian, as frostbite can cause serious, painful infection and/or damage to the tissue.

In severe cases, hypothermia may occur. Watch for hypothermia which causes the body’s system to shut down and can result in death. It is likely your pet will be lethargic and in extreme cases, unconscious. Seek professional veterinary help immediately.

Have a heart….it’s really cold. If you have any questions or concerns consult your veterinarian or the Humane Society of Missouri. If you see an animal that is being neglected or needing help, call the Humane Society of Missouri at (314) 647-4400.

For more information on cold weather safety with pets, visit the Humane Society of Missouri’s website at www.hsmo.org.