By Samantha Antenucci
As a loving pet owner, there’s nothing I wouldn’t do for my cat and five dogs (two of which are pictured below!). Pets are valuable family members—and as with any family member, they need to be looked after, especially when challenging weather poses health risks for them.
This winter’s polar vortex in the Midwest and East Coast left single-digit temps and subzero wind chills in its wake. Although that episode has passed, it doesn’t mean winter has loosened its grip on the Northeast. We may still see subfreezing weather blast through before the season is over, and inclement conditions can stress our pets. Here are some simple guidelines to ensure that your furry friends survive the season.
Keep ’em in if it’s cold out
Yes, Fido has a fur coat, but extreme cold is dangerous for humans and animals alike. So bring your pet indoors when temperatures dip. If it’s an outdoor pet, it still needs warm indoor shelter during freezing and below-freezing temps. The rest of the time, your pet needs an enclosure that protects it from wind, rain, and snow. The size of the enclosure matters—it should be large enough for the animal to sit and lie down, but small enough to ensure conservation of body heat. It should also face away from any wind and be elevated above ground to prevent further heat loss. It is also good practice to cover the doorway with a waterproof material for warmth and to keep the elements out.
Wipe those salty paws
Unless you’re in the country, chances are that after a storm, your streets and sidewalks are heavily treated with salt or chemical deicers. These compounds can stick to your dog’s paw pads during a walk, causing major irritation. In addition, if Fido tries to lick his pads clean, the salt and chemicals can make him sick. So make a habit of ending your winter walks by wiping off your dog’s feet with a damp cloth or towel, and checking regularly for cracked or bleeding paws.
Avoid household hazards
Speaking of chemicals, antifreeze is a deadly poison that’s often kept indoors. Its sweet taste attracts animals and ingestion can lead to death. Keep this and other household chemicals safely stored, and clean up any spills immediately.
Consider the local critters
Your own pets are not the only animals who may suffer in winter, so keep an eye out for creatures in need. Neighborhood cats have been known to crawl under car hoods or onto the tops of tires to keep warm. Before starting your engine in the morning, bang on the hood to scare away any animals that could be hiding inside.
Expect the unexpected
Being prepared in winter is vital; extreme weather can knock out heat, power, and communications. Make a plan to deal with storms, and keep an emergency kit handy—including five days’ worth of food, water, and medications. That way you can better protect your whole family—and your pet—from unforeseen hardships.
For more tips on weather safety for your pets, check out the American Red Cross’s Pet First Aid app. With veterinary advice and emergency preparedness info, the Pet First Aid app can help you keep your pets safe and warm this winter. To access all Red Cross apps, click here.