With the cold winter nights and short days, winter’s hold is still apparent, not just for us, but for our pets, too. More than just inconvenient, outdoor winters for our four-legged friends can be more than just uncomfortable: they can be downright dangerous.
Jackets and blankets purchased with your pooch in mind can help stave off the cold in some instances, but most pet experts recommend that Fido and Fluffy be allowed to sleep inside until spring’s rays start to warm the earth again. If your pet must sleep outside, inexpensive blankets can be found at any local thrift store, but be careful as blankets have a tendency to trap moisture. No one wants to sleep in a wet bed! Also, for pets left outside for more than a few minutes, be sure that they have adequate shelter with lots of clean, thick bedding and clean drinking water (not frozen) at all times.
Dog houses can be warmed with hot water bottles, special heat-radiating pads or cedar chips. Some dog houses even come with their own electric heaters, though the risks should not be taken lightly. Also, if the doghouse is wooden, be sure to raise it up off the ground several inches to prevent rotting and keep out rain, and cover the door of the dog house with a mat, piece of plastic carpet runner or carpet to provide an adequate door.
Remember, too, that dogs lose most of their heat through their paws, ears and skin, so extended exposure to cold will have an effect on them. Long-haired dogs like Elkhounds and Huskies fare better than smooth-coated dogs, Boxers and Greyhounds, for example. All breeds, however, including cats, are susceptible to de-icing products, including salt. Be sure to wash their paws with warm water when they come inside after walking on any of these substances.
Speaking of substances, be sure to monitor your car for any anti-freeze leaks and wipe them up immediately, as these can prove lethal for both cats and dogs. Also be sure to give a good tap to the hood before you start your car in the morning if you have kitties in your neighborhood who enjoy the warmth of your car motor. (Or if your own kitty sleeps in the garage at night.)
Since the groundhog saw his shadow this year, spring is coming, but isn’t here yet. Be sure to protect your pets from the cold nights that are still upon us.