With recent brutal below-zero temperatures, we should all remind ourselves every day and night that pets get cold, too. In fact, like humans they can easily get frostbite or even freeze to death when temps dip dangerously low.
The problem of dogs suffering or dying in the cold has become of such concern that many states have now passed laws making it a crime to leave pets (including cats) outside in the freezing cold. Those states are Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Texas and the latest one – Pennsylvania. The laws vary widely, some more strict than others, but at least it’s a start – the beginning of an awareness that cold (and hot) weather can be as tough on animals as people. Let us hope Minnesota and all the other cold northern states soon makes the list of states criminalizing pet abuse in winter.
In the meantime, let’s all keep our pets warm and safe.
The following are good winter tips:
- Never let a dog or cat outside for more than 10 or 15 minutes when it’s cold and windy. A potty break is fine, but make sure you do not forget the dog is outside.
- Do not let dogs stay alone in vehicles when it’s cold. They can suffer and die just as they can if left alone in hot cars.
- Don’t shave dogs in winter. Let their fur grow to keep them warm.
- Buy a dog sweater or vest to protect the dog from cold when taking it for a walk. Dog booties might also be an option.
- Keep strolls with your pets very short on the coldest days – just a couple blocks at the most.
- Use a towel to dry pets’ paws when they come in the house after snowfall and after a walk and remove snowballs from fur.
- Be sure to use pet-friendly de-icers on driveways, car ports and sidewalks. They can be toxic to pets when stuck in their paws or fur. It’s good to use pet-friendly de-icers even if you do not own a pet.
- Likewise, as above, car coolants and anti-freeze are lethal to animals – a very real danger as pets often like to lick the “sweet-tasting” chemicals off of driveways, car ports or garage floors. Be sure to clean up spills and leaks immediately.
- Always make sure dogs have plenty of water, especially when outdoors, because water can rehydrate their systems, boost blood circulation and help them stay warmer.
- Be aware some cats will climb up onto the engines of parked cars in an effort to find warmth. Starting an engine can obviously kill the unfortunate creature so before starting a vehicle check for signs of a cat or cats on or near the engine.
- It’s important for dogs to get some exercise. It’s fine to play “fetch” in the yard for brief periods of time on cold days. Brisk walks, with pets always on leashes, is also a good idea, but keep the walks quite short.
All it takes is a bit of awareness, following those tips, to keep our pets safe, warm and happy all winter long.
Author: Dennis Dalman
Dalman was born and raised in South St. Cloud, graduated from St. Cloud Tech High School, then graduated from St. Cloud State University with a degree in English (emphasis on American and British literature) and mass communications (emphasis on print journalism). He studied in London, England for a year (1980-81) where he concentrated on British literature, political science, the history of Great Britain and wrote a book-length study of the British writer V.S. Naipaul. Dalman has been a reporter and weekly columnist for more than 30 years and worked for 16 of those years for the Alexandria Echo Press.