Bitter cold weather has arrived and local forecasters are expecting it to last at least into next week. The Seattle Animal Shelter reminds all pet owners that winter weather poses special risks to pets. When temperatures fall, pets need extra care to help keep them comfy, cozy, healthy and safe. In an effort to help those dogs that are left outside, the shelter is also soliciting new and used dog igloos and doghouses so that they may be redistributed to pet owners in need.
“Each fall and winter season, thousands of pets are left out in the cold with little or no refuge,” says Seattle Animal Shelter Director Don Jordan. “Pet owners need to take extra precautions during cold weather to prevent a potential tragedy from befalling their beloved pets.”
Jordan offers the following advice this winter:
- Dogs and cats can get frostbitten ears, noses and feet if left outside. Bring pets indoors during cold weather and take them out only when necessary.
- Pets love the smell and taste of antifreeze and even a small amount can kill them. Clean up spills at once and be alert for antifreeze on the ground or left out in open containers that have not been properly stored or disposed of.
- If your dog must remain outside for a period of time, provide an elevated dog house with clean, dry bedding and a flap over the opening to keep drafts out. The door should face away from the west or north to avoid cold winds. Consider installing a “doggie” door so your pet can seek protection from cold weather in your garage. Check water bowls to make sure they are not frozen and avoid using metal bowls as your pet’s tongue could stick to the frozen metal.
- Gently towel or blow-dry your dog or cat if he or she gets wet from rain or snow. It is important to dry and clean paws as well. This helps avoid tiny cuts and cracked pads. Remember that chemicals used to melt snow and ice on driveways and sidewalks can burn your pet, so check the paws, mouth and belly after a walk.
- Make sure your pet has a current Seattle pet license and always use a leash. When walking on snow, dogs can lose their scent and easily become lost. A pet license is your best insurance your pet will be returned to you.
- Cats and kittens often nap on warm car engines and hoods. If your car was recently used, knock on the hood or honk the car horn before starting the engine.
- Help your elderly or arthritic pets when they need to go outside.
- Consider a sweater for short-coated breeds, such as Greyhounds and Chihuahuas, before taking them outside. But choose wisely. Sweaters made from certain fibers don’t insulate when they get wet and can actually remove heat from an animal’s body. Avoid sweaters made of cotton; wool and some synthetics provide insulation, even when wet.
- Do not leave your pet alone in a car. It gets too cold and can quickly become a freezer, causing hypothermia and possibly death.
- Be careful of fireplaces and portable heaters; keep fireplaces screened and heaters out of reach as a pet may chew the cord or knock it over and cause a fire.
- Like people, dogs and cats are more susceptible to illnesses in the winter. Take your pet to your veterinarian if symptoms occur.
The Seattle Animal Shelter, located at 2061 15th Ave. W., is open Wednesday through Sunday, 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. for adoptions, donations and licensing. The phone number is 206-386-7387 (PETS). More information at http://www.seattleanimalshelter.org