Keep Your Animal Friends Warm And Safe This Winter

JudithphotoBy Judith Kristen, AAP Columnist

When cold weather hits, we find ourselves all bundled up, with hats and gloves and boots to keep us cozy and warm until we’re back within the safe and heated confines of our home sweet home.

Millions of animals are not so lucky.

Some of our animal friends are totally abandoned, while others are left right outside their own home to fend for themselves. Water bowls freeze up, and there’s no warm or safe sheltering for these “backyard dogs.” Cats may find it easier roaming “unchained,” but it’s still hard to find food and water, and warmth.

Please, this winter, do whatever you can do help these cold and neglected animals.

If you know of a “backyard dog,” or an outside cat, please ask, or leave a note for the owners to let him or her indoors. You may also offer to take their dog for walks, and bring treats and toys to him or her.

Always make sure that there is proper shelter and fresh water, and call the authorities if there isn’t. And if you have the resources, please consider being an “angel” for animals and sponsoring a doghouse or cat shelter so that one lucky pup or kitty will have a safe haven to call his or her own.

Thanks to donations from compassionate people like you, your local shelter or ASPCA will be able to provide houses, along with toys, treats, and insulating straw bedding, to thousands of dogs and cats in need.

Many pets, like Loverboy here, love to play in the snow. However, there are neglected dogs and cats that are left outside for far too long in wintery conditions.

Many pets, like Loverboy here, love to play in the snow. However, there are neglected dogs and cats that are left outside for far too long in wintery conditions.

More noteworthy information to pass along is this: many cats we see outside, we mistake for feral cats. More cats than you can imagine are indoor/outdoor cats that belong to your friends and neighbors.

If you are a cat owner, please, in this frigid weather, keep your darling felines inside. Outdoors, cats can freeze, become lost, or be stolen, injured or killed. Cats who are allowed to stray are also exposed to infectious diseases, including rabies, from other cats, dogs, and 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. If there are outdoor cats in your area, bang loudly on the car hood before starting the engine to give the cat a chance to escape.

Also, with our canine friends in mind, never let your dog off the leash on snow or ice, especially during a snowstorm, as dogs can easily become lost. Make sure your dog always wears ID 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 potentially dangerous chemicals while licking his paws and his paw pads may also bleed from snow or encrusted ice.

Never shave your dog down to the skin in winter, as a longer coat will provide more warmth. When you bathe your dog in the colder months, be sure to completely dry him before taking him out for a walk. Own a short-haired breed? Consider getting him a coat or sweater with a high collar or turtleneck with coverage from the base of the tail to the belly. For many dogs, this is regulation winter wear.

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 and causing the animal to freeze to death.

Puppies do not tolerate the cold as well as adult dogs, and may be difficult to housebreak during the winter. If your puppy appears to be sensitive to the weather, you may opt to paper-train him inside. If your dog is sensitive to the cold due to age, illness or breed type, take him outdoors only to relieve himself.

Does your dog spend a lot of time engaged in outdoor activities? Increase his supply of food, particularly protein, to keep him, and his fur, in tip-top shape.

And, 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.

Also, please make sure your companion animal has a warm place to sleep, off the floor, and away from all drafts. A cozy dog or cat bed with a warm blanket or pillow is perfect.

Remember… EVERY week is Be Kind to Animals Week!

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