With severely cold weather here and continuing, the Humane Society of Missouri urges all pet owners to bring their pets inside and exercise the utmost caution when exposing pets to the cold. Pets rely on their owners to help stay warm during cold weather. As a general rule: If it’s too cold for you, it’s too cold for your pets.
BRING YOUR PET INSIDE: Don’t leave your pet outside in the cold for prolonged periods of time. Remember — thermometers might show one temperature, but wind chills can make it feel much, much colder. Limit time outdoors and be mindful of frostbite on ears, tail and paws. If you run with your dog, pay attention to cold paws and, if it gets too cold, leave your pup at home. Cats should always be left indoors — it’s the law in the City of St. Louis. “Outdoor” cats are often victims of road traffic, wilds animals, dogs and cruel people and freezing or starving to death in severely cold weather.
ACCLIMATE YOUR PET TO COLD WEATHER: If your pets spend a lot of time outdoors, make sure to introduce them gradually to dropping temperatures, rather than exposing them to the extreme cold all at once.
PROVIDE ADEQUATE SHELTER: Adequate shelter is mandated by law. If your dog lives outdoors, you must provide a well-insulated and draft-free doghouse. The opening should face south with a sturdy, flexible covering to prevent icy winds from entering. Line the floors of the shelter with straw, not hay. Towels and blankets can become damp or freeze, making the space colder.
BEWARE OF ANTIFREEZE AND ROCK SALT: Antifreeze often collects on driveways and roadways. Although it smells and tastes sweet to your pet, it is lethally poisonous. If you suspect your pet has ingested antifreeze, contact your veterinarian immediately! Deicing products like rock salt can irritate footpads. Be sure to rinse and dry your pet’s feet after being outside. Pet stores often carry pet-safe ice melts that do the job and won’t harm your pets.
DRY OFF WET PETS: A wet pet is a cold pet. Towel or blow-dry your pet if he gets wet from rain or snow. Also, it is important to clean and dry paws to prevent tiny cuts and cracked pads.
PROVIDE PLENTY OF FOOD AND WATER: It takes more energy in the winter to properly regulate body temperature, so your pet needs additional calories if he spends a lot of time playing or working outdoors. Your pet is just as likely to get dehydrated in the winter as in the summer, so be sure to provide plenty of fresh water. Snow is not a substitute for water. Refill outside bowls often to prevent freezing.
CAREFULLY KEEP PETS WARM INSIDE: Keep your pets warm, dry and away from drafts while inside. Space heaters and other supplemental heat sources can burn your pet. Keep portable heaters out of reach and make sure all fireplaces have adequate screening. And, of course, never leave your pet alone with an unattended fire.
GROOM REGULARLY: Your pet needs a well-groomed coat to keep him properly insulated. Short- or coarse-haired dogs might get extra cold so consider a sweater or a coat. Long-haired dogs should have their paw hair trimmed to ease in cleaning and snow removal.
To report an animal in distress, please call the Humane Society of Missouri at (314) 647-4400. For more information on how to care for your pets during cold weather months, visit the Humane Society of Missouri website www.hsmo.org or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.