Tips to protect your pet during winter
Brrrrr … It’s the season where frost and snow cover the ground and temperatures are cold. Pets are happiest and healthiest when kept indoors, especially during extreme cold weather.
Here on the Western Slope, winter is a season of bitter cold and bone-chilling wetness. So make sure your four-footed family members stay safe and warm this winter by following some simple guidelines.
Keep your furry friends indoors. Ward off your pet’s winter’s woes and keep your dog or cat inside with you and your family. The happiest of dogs are taken out frequently for walks and exercise but kept inside the rest of the time. Many dogs love to play in the snow, so don’t hesitate to throw some snowballs around and frolic in the white stuff before retreating to your warm home.
Don’t leave pets outdoors when the temperature drops. Do you enjoy wearing that warm sweater during cold days? Your dog does too. During walks, short-haired dogs may feel more comfortable wearing a sweater. Wind-chill can threaten a pet’s life even in seemingly warmer temperatures. Pets are sensitive to severe cold and are at risk for frostbite and hypothermia during extreme cold snaps. Exposed skin on noses, ears and paw pads can quickly freeze and suffer permanent damage.
If for some reason your dog is outdoors much of the day, he or she should be protected by a dry, draft-free shelter that is large enough to allow the dog to sit and lie down comfortably but small enough to hold in his/her body heat.
The floor should be raised a few inches off the ground and covered with cedar shavings or straw. The doorway should be covered with waterproof burlap or heavy plastic. Pets that spend a lot of time outdoors need more food in the winter because keeping warm depletes energy.
Routinely check your pet’s water dish to make certain the water is fresh and unfrozen. Use plastic food and water bowls; when the temperature is low, your pet’s tongue can stick and freeze to metal. Consider investing in a heated water bowl to insure your pet’s water stays liquid.
Warm engines in parked cars attract cats and small wildlife, that may crawl up under the hood. To avoid injuring any hidden animals, bang on your car’s hood to scare them away before starting your engine.
The salt and other chemicals used to melt snow and ice can irritate the pads of your furry friend’s feet. Wipe all paws with a damp towel before your pet licks them and irritates their mouth.
Antifreeze is a deadly poison, but it has a sweet taste that may attract animals and children. Wipe up spills and keep antifreeze and all household chemicals out of reach at all times.
If you encounter a pet left in the cold, politely let the owner know you’re concerned. If they don’t respond well, document what you see: the date, time, exact location and type of animal, plus as many details as possible.
Video and photographic documentation (even a cell phone photo) will help bolster your case. Then contact your local animal control agency or law enforcement agency and present your evidence. Take detailed notes regarding whom you speak with and when. Respectfully follow up in a few days if the situation has not been addressed.
Blair Bracken is the events and development coordinator at the Rifle Animal Shelter. She can be reached at 970-625-8808.
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Former Rifle Bears standout turned starting running back for Western Colorado University Ty Leyba remembers it like it was yesterday.