BANGOR – It’s clear that frigid temperatures are here and not going away anytime soon. And though there is plenty of fun to be had outside in the winter, it can also mean danger for pets. We consulted with the Bangor Humane Society and the American Veterinary Medical Association’s website for important information that will help keep them safe in the cold weather.
First, both organizations stress the importance of putting away your anti-freeze where pets can’t get to it and cleaning up any spills, even small ones. The chemical is highly toxic to cats and dogs and just a small amount can do serious damage or even be fatal.
Second, watch out for feline hitchhikers. Local stray and feral cats will sometimes crawl under your car, into the wheel wells or into the engine seeking warmth. So it’s important to check under your car, check the wheel wells, bang on your hood and even honk your horn before starting your car to let them know it’s time to move.
Always make sure you are wiping off your cat’s or dog’s paws after time outside, which will clean off salt and other road treatment chemicals. It can cause burns if left on or make them sick if they lick their paws to clean them and unknowingly ingest the chemicals. Pet-friendly rock salt is available at most pet stores and other locations as well.
As for leaving pets outside, that rule is simple, says Kathryn Ravenscraft, who is the Bangor Humane Society Development Director.
“If it’s too cold for you, it’s too cold for your pets. So you need to bring them in. We understand that people have indoor-outdoor cats but night especially anytime of year is the most dangerous time for a cat to be outside. But especially in the winter bring them in and make sure they are warm.”
Ravenscraft also had specific instructions for building a proper outside dog shelter if yours does spend time outside in cold weather. Any outdoor dog shelter should have four solid walls and a roof, as well as a heavy-duty flap made of a substantial material like tarp or burlap so that it shields the dog inside from wind and precipitation. The structure should be big enough for the dog to be able to stand up and move around but small enough to retain its body heat.
Additionally, if possible, raise the structure off the ground and create an inch or two of space between it and the ground then pack that space with hay. This provides extra insulation. Finally, a dog that spends a lot of time outside in the cold requires extra nutrition, says Ravenscraft. It takes a lot more energy for a dog to keep its body temperature up when outside in the cold so extra food is needed. Hydration is crucial too so be sure to make your dog has a bowl of fresh clean water and that his water supply hasn’t frozen, she said.
The bottom line, though, is that prolonged exposure to cold temperatures is unhealthy. Pets should not be left out in the cold for days at a time. So bring them inside and give them a rest from the frigid temps. If you see an animal outside for a prolonged period of time and are concerned for it’s safety, document the situation in detail and contact your local animal control officer for help Ravencraft said.
The AVMA has additional tips when it comes to winter wellness, specifically how health conditions, a dog’s size, coat and age can influence how they tolerate winter weather. You can find them here.