Winter finally has made its way here, with temperatures switching abruptly from the 80s to below freezing and back again. It just proves that we always need to have cold-weather preparations in place for our pets.
Contrary to popular belief, pets are not protected from the cold just because they have fur. While their coats may provide a minimal amount of protection, cats and dogs feel the cold just like we do. If it’s too cold for us, it’s too cold for them.
Prolonged exposure to cold temperatures can cause hypothermia, frostbite and even death in animals.
Here are some things to consider in your cold-weather plan.
BRING THEM INSIDE: Dogs that are outside should be brought indoors in the event of a freeze. If pets absolutely cannot be brought inside, make sure there is adequate shelter from the elements. The shelter needs to be warm, protected from wind and rain, and raised off the ground.
Elevating the doghouse a few inches will prevent moisture from coming in through the floor. A flap opening or positioning away from the wind will help keep the warmth in.
Doghouses should not be overly large and should have warm bedding such as dry, clean towels or blankets. Bedding will need to be changed frequently.
FERAL COLONIES AND OUTDOOR CATS: For colony caretakers, leave a garage door cracked so cats have a warm place to go. If the colony is away from the home, have provisions such as bins or boxes propped up sideways and containing warm bedding such as blankets or hay so there is a warm retreat.
KNOCK ON THE CAR HOOD: Neighborhood cats tend to curl up in tire wheel wells and under the hoods of cars to escape the cold weather, so make it a habit to knock on the hood before starting the car to ensure a hidden cat is not injured or taken on an unplanned road trip.
FRESH WATER: Pets need access to fresh, clean water at all times as they can become dehydrated, even in winter. Watch that the drinking water does not freeze.
SKIN CARE: Cold weather can cause dry, flaky skin for pets, just like it does for people. Try to limit baths as washing a pet too often can remove essential oils and increase the chance for dry skin.
KEEP CHEMICALS OUT OF REACH: Keep pets away from toxic items such as antifreeze and rat poisoning — two items that are frequently used during colder months. It is always a good idea to keep all toxic items well out of reach of pets and children all year long.
Do not leave a pet outside to suffer through the cold. Pets need proper shelter from severe temperatures and access to warm areas. According to Louisiana statute RS14:102.1, it is simple cruelty to animals to fail to provide proper shelter.
Proper shelter means “providing each animal with adequate shelter from the elements as required to prevent unnecessary or unjustifiable suffering by the animal.” If an animal is spotted outdoors during a freeze without adequate shelter, please alert your parish shelter or proper authority immediately.
Traci D. Howerton is the volunteer coordinator for Animal Rescue New Orleans (ARNO), a nonprofit, volunteer-based, no-kill shelter. For topic suggestions, email email@example.com or for more info on ARNO, visit www.animalrescueneworleans.org.