We are still experiencing very cold winter weather in this area, and driving around town on errands last week, I was saddened by the number of shivering dogs left outside. Responsible pet owners do NOT leave their dogs outside in the cold. Windchill factors make days even colder than actual temperature readings. If you absolutely refuse to let your dog into the house, at least fix up a warm corner in the basement or garage. Fix a bed to provide a barrier from cold floors, and place it away from drafts. Especially useful for older pets and pets with thin coats are the specially made-for-dogs heating pads (with chew resistant cords).
Frozen water is another common problem in this area. It is absolutely essential that pets have fresh water available at all times. Heated waterers are available at reasonable cost and should be provided if there is a danger of freezing. I often hear pet owners say that their dogs eat snow. Responsible pet owners realize that water is necessary for all body functions from walking to sleeping and that snow does not provide adequate water. As a general rule, a normal, healthy pet’s daily water needs are about 2 ½ times the amount of dry food he is given. For example, if your dog eats 2 lbs. of dry food, he should drink 5 pints—almost two-thirds of a gallon – of water. There should always be clean, fresh water available for your pet.
Dogs need regular exercise, but excursions outside in freezing weather need to be brief. Pets are sensitive to the cold—you can’t take your pet’s temperature by touching her nose, but you can see if she is shivering. If she is shivering, she is cold. There are a number of good dog coats and sweaters available. Choose a coat for warmth, not for style—and make sure it is an easy on-easy off garment.
Never let your dog off the leash in snowy, icy weather. Dogs can lose their scent in snow and ice, and can become lost. They may panic in a blizzard and run away. More dogs are lost during the winter than during any other season.
Tying them outside in any weather for extended periods of time is cruel and inhumane, but in this cold weather, it can be fatal. If you see animal neglect, it is your responsibility to take action. Report an animal in trouble immediately. In this weather, a puppy will die if left out in the elements. We have already received several reports of dogs tied outside shivering. We cannot save all of them, but we can take actions to prevent neglect in our own neighborhoods. I repeat a quote by Rabbi Kenneth Segel: “We must not become so hardened to the plight of animals that we begin to accept it. If we are insensitive to the suffering of animals, we are on the road to becoming cruel and inhumane with people.”