Bitterly cold temperatures, frigid winds, and major snow storms have hit us hard in Iowa. As tough as this weather is on humans, it can be even tougher on our pets. Stephanie Shain of HSUS stresses that if it is too cold for you to be outdoors, it is too cold for your animals. “Just because they have fur coats doesn’t mean that they can endure cold weather. If you are uncomfortable, so are they. NO dog should be kept outside when the temperatures drop below freezing. Animals are vulnerable to frostbite and hypothermia in less than an hour of exposure.” It is important to keep our four-footed friends warm and safe, by following a few common sense suggestions.
- Walks should be brief, and in frigid weather limited to “taking care of outside business.”
- Dogs should NEVER be left outdoors or in unheated areas.
- Salt used on icy roads and sidewalks can cause a dog’s pads to become dry, cracked, and painfully sore. Dogs can also get ice stuck between their toes, which can cause significant discomfort and sometimes, frostbite. Cleaning your pet’s paws is imperative when he comes in from a walk outside. Carefully snip the tufts of hair between your dog’s toes, to help prevent ice balls from forming. Add a layer of protection to his footpads before heading out. A thin layer of aloe or petroleum jelly provides a protective layer and are safe, even if your dog licks his feet. The oil helps keep ice and snow from clumping in between the toes.
- Give your dog a little extra food during cold weather. They need more energy in the winter than they do in the summer.
- When refilling your car’s radiator, be sure to clean up any spilled antifreeze. Ethylene glycol has a sweet taste that appeals to dogs. Wipe up spills and store antifreeze (and other household chemicals) out of reach. Better yet, use antifreeze-coolant made with propylene glycol. It costs a little more, but is not so toxic to pets and children.
- If it is necessary to bathe a dog in winter, turn up the heat in your home, keep baths short, dry him quickly, and keep him warm until totally dry.
- Prevent static electricity and dry skin by operating a humidifier. The forced dry air that heats our homes tends to cause humans to get chapped lips and dry hands, and also causes dogs’ coats to dry out and become itchy. A humidifier is beneficial for the entire household.
- Use space heaters with caution. These auxiliary heat sources can cause burns or even house fires if bumped over. There are quartz infrared portable heaters with much better safety records than most portable heaters, and they produce safe, clean, economical heat. Do some careful research before you purchase one!
- Please get involved if you see a neglected animal. Urge people to bring their dogs inside. If you meet with resistance, alert the authorities. Concerned neighbors are often the only hope for these poor animals.