MTN News visited the Lewis & Clark Humane Society on Wednesday to get tips from experts about how to take care of your pets during the coldest time of the year.
Lewis & Clark Humane Society director Gina Wiest said you have to be extra careful when handling your pets during the winter.
"Definitely they can get frostbite on their paws, and it would be really uncomfortable, and they could possibly freeze to death," said Wiest.
She said unless you have Malamutes or Huskies, which are dog breeds specifically adapted to the cold, it’s best to limit outdoor activities.
That’s because "they have that under-coat and heavy coat, and they’re used to that weather," said Wiest.
Dogs, cats, and other animals are susceptible to the same cold weather injuries people are, including frostbite, frost nip, and hypothermia.
"Your average dog that we see through the shelter need to go inside or have housing in order for them to go into," said Wiest.
For cat owners, Wiest said sometimes they will find a place and hide outdoors to stay warm, but definitely try to get them in during the night, because their paws can freeze very quickly.
If your pet refuses to use a dog house or some sort of shelter, Wiest said, "…then at that point in time you need to make appropriate provisions for them either a garage or in your home, in a kennel, that kind of thing."
She also suggested giving them extra food and water, since animals use up a lot of energy trying to stay warm.
"Fresh water, not frozen water. You can buy heated bowls, they’re really easy to keep and take care of," said Wiest.
Wiest said it’s especially dangerous for little dogs, as they’re closer to the ground and have little insulation or fur to keep them warm.
"Even if they’re wearing little fancy outfits or something like that, a lot of people do that, still, it’s in and out, go potty, and come back in. They don’t need to be out and roaming around. It’s just really important to keep them warm," said Wiest.
Small dog breeds with short hair are the most susceptible to winter injuries.
Some of these dog breeds include beagles, terriers, Chihuahuas, poodles, or any toy breeds.
Wiest said if you notice something wrong with your pets, contact your vet or animal control to have them checked out.
The American Veterinary Medical Association website has more cold-care tips, including this overview:
- Check the paws: Check your dog’s paws frequently for signs of cold-weather injury or damage, such as cracked paw pads or bleeding. During a walk, a sudden lameness may be due to an injury or may be due to ice accumulation between his/her toes. You may be able to reduce the chance of iceball accumulation by clipping the hair between your dog’s toes.
- Wipe down: During walks, your dog’s feet, legs and belly may pick up deicers, antifreeze, or other chemicals that could be toxic. When you get back inside, wipe down (or wash) your pet’s feet, legs and belly to remove these chemicals and reduce the risk that your dog will be poisoned after (s)he licks them off of his/her feet or fur. Consider using pet-safe deicers on your property to protect your pets and the others in your neighborhood.
- Prevent poisoning: Clean up any antifreeze spills quickly, as even small amounts of antifreeze can be deadly. Make sure your pets don’t have access to medication bottles, household chemicals, potentially toxic foods such as onions, xylitol (a sugar substitute) and chocolate.