Winter Pet Tips from the Kentucky Humane Society
- Do not leave pets outdoors when the temperature drops. If you have outdoor dogs, bring them inside. Pets are at risk of frostbite, hypothermia and death during extreme cold snaps, and wind chill is particularly dangerous. Exposed skin on noses, ears and paws can quickly freeze and suffer permanent damage.
- If you care for community, unowned cats (often called feral cats), be sure their water dishes are not frozen and they have access to extra calories. For water dishes, use deep bowls rather than wide ones, and refill them with hot or warm water twice a day. Feed cats on a regular schedule, and increase their calories to help them keep warm. Protect them from the elements by providing cat shelters. You can build one yourself or convert Rubbermaid storage bins, Styrofoam coolers or small dog houses into shelters.
- During the winter, community cats sometimes sleep under the hoods of cars. When the motor is started, the cat can be injured or killed by the fan belt. If there are community cats in your area, bang loudly on the car hood before starting the engine.
- Like coolant, antifreeze is lethal for pets. Thoroughly clean up any spills from your vehicle, and consider using products that contain propylene glycol rather than ethylene glycol.
- Avoid salt and chemical melting products. They can be toxic to animals and harmful to their paws.
- Wipe your pet's paws and stomach when she comes in out of the sleet, snow or ice. She could ingest salt, antifreeze or other dangerous chemicals while licking her paws.
- Do not let your dog off the leash on snow or ice, especially during a snowstorm: dogs can lose their scent and easily become lost.
- Puppies do not tolerate the cold as well as adult dogs, and may be difficult to housebreak during the winter. Consider using puppy pads when the weather is very cold. And if your dog is sensitive to the cold due to age, illness or breed type, take her outdoors only to relieve herself and avoid long walks.
- If you have a small dog, consider laying down a tarp on the grass before it snows, then removing the tarp after the storm. This can give your dog an easy place to relieve himself.
- Never shave your dog down to the skin in winter, as a longer coat will provide more warmth. Own a short-haired breed? Consider getting him a coat or sweater.
- If your indoor cat occasionally goes outdoors, keep his explorations to a minimum—and always make sure he comes indoors at night. Even better, keep him inside: place a cushion next to a window so he can enjoy the outdoors from the safety and warmth of home.
For more tips, call the Kentucky Humane Society’s free Pet Help Line, 502-509-4738 or visit kyhumane.org/help. The Pet Help Line provides advice for all things pet-related and is made possible by a grant from PetSmart Charities and Dogs Trust Worldwide.