Winter has definitely arrived, and it is EXTREMELY cold this year in Iowa, with snow already piled high in many places. Even though we enjoy looking at the “Winter Wonderland”, this season of freezing temperatures and numbing wetness poses many dangers for our four footed companions. Please follow some common sense rules to help your pets remain happy and healthy during these cold months.
- Do NOT leave dogs outdoors when the temperature drops. I receive regular calls regarding dogs tied outside during this cold winter weather. We discourage tethering dogs in any weather, but it is especially dangerous this time of year. Dogs left out in the cold too long can get frostbite and hypothermia just as humans do. Responsible dog caregivers do NOT leave their dogs outside in the cold. While dogs may possess some natural protection against winter weather, Iowa’s variety of bitter elements can jeopardize any pet’s health and safety. Even with temps above freezing, the wind chill can still threaten a pet’s life. If you don’t want a dog in the main part of your house, surely there is a heated area that could be kid-gated where he could spend his day in warm comfort. If he has behavioral problems, the solution is not to banish him to the back yard, but to spend time training him. Dogs are usually willing to comply to house rules IF they understand what the rules are. Remember that good caregivers have good dogs! If you absolutely refuse to let your dog into the house, at least fix up a warm corner on the porch, basement, or garage. Use plenty of blankets to provide a barrier from cold floors, and provide him a warm, cozy “den”. There are many small, safe heaters that can be used to warm his den. (Don’t keep pets in unheated areas!)
- A little extra food is usually recommended in cold weather, and fresh water is an absolute necessity…ice and snow are NOT acceptable substitutes. Your dog needs clean, fresh water available at all times. He will also appreciate a few extra chew toys and other playthings so he isn’t tempted to turn to the furniture or your shoes out of boredom!
- Shelters are already getting complaints about Christmas puppies. Puppies do not tolerate the cold well, and we admit that it is difficult to housetrain a puppy during the winter. If you recall, we strongly advised against giving puppies as Christmas gifts, but if you did get one, it is now your responsibility to train him. Your dog may feel it’s more convenient to use the floor or carpet, but you can curb this with a regular outdoor comfort-station schedule in which you GO OUT WITH him first thing in the morning, several times during the day, and last thing at night. You made a commitment (and it isn’t the dog’s fault that the weather is lousy!)
- If you see an animal shivering out in the cold, don’t just ignore him. Perhaps his caregiver doesn’t even realize the dangers, and ignorance is curable by education. Avoid being belligerent or accusatory, but politely explain the dangers. If the friendly approach is unsuccessful, notify the authorities. It is Iowa law that animals be provided ADEQUATE shelter, fresh water (not ice) and fresh food. When you report to the animal control authorities, it is important that you calmly, coherently give brief, specific facts. Exact address of the dog is needed, and it is best to have written documentation of the problem. The authorities are very busy, so sometimes you need to be persistent. If the situation does not improve, report again…and again…and again. A dog’s life may depend on your intervention.
AS I LAY DYING is an observation shared by Patti Ragsdale which I was asked to repeat.
As I lay dying in a pile of ice and snow, I felt a hand touch my matted coat, and saw an angel looking down at me. As gentle hands stroked my fur, I wondered if I had died, released from the never ending agony of chains, neglect, and loneliness. The human angel gently lifted me from the cold frozen ground, bathed my skinny, dirty, body and treated all the wounds and sores.
Her soft touch, kind word, and warm blanket overshadowed the years of suffering when no one cared.
I am no longer lonely and frightened. I am loved.