If you’re cold, they’re cold. Here are some simple tips to keep your four-legged family members warm and safe in cold weather.
• Cover them up: Dogs with thicker coats have higher tolerance to cold weather, but short-haired breeds such as chihuahuas, beagles and greyhounds don’t have much natural shield from the elements. If taking them out for a walk of more than a few minutes, put a sweater or coat on them.
Older dogs and very young dogs can also struggle to keep moving outside to stay warm.
If the dog will tolerate them, booties provide added protection for their feet. That part of their body is especially vulnerable to the rock salt often used as an ice-melting agent, irritating their paws. It can also be harmful if swallowed. Once back inside, make sure to wipe off the dog’s feet and belly with a moist rag.
• Knock on the car hood or blow the horn: Cats have a knack for finding warm spots when it’s cold, but oftentimes that can be a wheel well or a nook underneath the hood of a car that was recently turned off. The noise from a knock or the horn will scare them away.
• Beware of antifreeze: Animals are drawn to the smell and sweet taste of ethylene glycol in regular antifreeze, which crystallizes in their lungs and kills them. Colder temperatures often remind drivers to add antifreeze to their vehicles, and spillages become hazardous to animals.
• Go outside with them: As uncomfortable as it might be, it’s best to accompany dogs outside to do their business instead of letting them roam by themselves in the yard. Though most dogs will want to scurry back to where it’s warm, some may not be able to resist chasing a squirrel or running around.
Warning signs of hypothermia in dogs include excessive whining, shivering, biting at their feet or licking their feet excessively.
• Don’t leave pets in the car: Cold weather can create “a freezer-like environment’’ inside a car that’s turned off, so it’s discouraged for owners to travel with their pets during the winter. If pets must come along, they shouldn’t be let alone in the vehicle even for short spells.
• Shelter, food and water: Stray cats can withstand temperatures around 15-20 degrees but are in danger of hypothermia when the mercury drops lower. Insulated boxes can serve as shelter for cats – they can also be made easily out of Styrofoam coolers.
For people who like to look after neighborhood cats that may visit from time to time, experts suggest leaving food and warm water available to them. It’s important the water remain liquid because hydration is critical to maintaining proper body temperature.
Anyone concerned about an animal’s welfare should call their local animal welfare services office.