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How to keep pets safe during extreme cold



TOPEKA, Kan. – The nation’s first national humane organization is giving tips to keep pets safe during a deadly cold snap.

American Humane, the nation’s first national humane organization, says over 150 million residents in 25 states are under either a winter storm warning, winter weather advisory or ice storm warning as issued by the National Weather Service. Now, it said power grids are failing and families and pets are in danger.

American Humane, which has over a century of rescue experience during natural disasters, said it is urging families to include their pets in their emergency planning.

“States and regions that are accustomed to mild winters are experiencing weather patterns that endanger the lives of people and animals,” said Robin Ganzert, Ph.D., president & CEO of American Humane. “It is imperative that families include their companion animals in their plans as they adapt to freezing and precarious situations.”

According to American Humane, when the weather becomes unsafe for humans, it is also unsafe for companion animals. It said it is asking families to take precautions for not only themselves but their animals too.

American Humane has given families the following tips to keep pets safe during cold weather:

  • When bathing animals in cold weather, make sure they are completely dry before taking them outside.
  • When walking dogs in bad weather, keep them on leashes. It is easier for a dog to get lost in winter storms. More dogs are lost during the winter than any other season.
  • Do not forget to microchip and put ID tags on animals.
  • Leash pets if near frozen ponds, lakes or rivers, as they can break through the ice and quickly succumb to hypothermia before trained professionals can arrive. Never try an ice rescue alone, leave that to trained professionals.
  • When working on housebreaking puppies, remember they are more susceptible to cold than adult dogs are. In cold conditions or bad weather, try paper training your new pet instead of taking them outside.
  • Keep pets inside during the day and night. Just because they have fur does not mean they can handle extremely cold temperatures.
  • If animals are left out, they should have a draft-free shelter that is large enough for them to stand and turn around in, but small enough to retain body heat. Use a layer of straw or other bedding material to help insulate them against the cold. Make sure the entrance to the shelter faces away from incoming wind and snow.
  • Keep cats indoors. Cats can freeze in cold weather without shelter. Sometimes cats left outdoors will look for shelter and heat under the hoods of cars and are hurt or killed when the car is turned on. Bang loudly on the hoods of cars a few times before starting the engine to avoid a tragic situation. This will help wild animals too.
  • When taking pets out for a bathroom break, stay with them. If it is too cold for a human to stand outside, it is too cold for a pet to stand outside.

American Humane said it is also giving the following precautions for outdoor pets:

  • Remember that staying warms requires more calories. Outdoor animals usually need more calories in the winter, so feed them accordingly when the temperature drops. Talk to veterinarians for advice on proper diets.
  • Watch your pet’s outside fresh-water bowl. If it is not heated, refresh it more often as it will freeze in cold weather.
  • Keep an eye out for salt and de-icers as many pets enjoy going outside for a room in the snow, they may lick neighbors’ powerful salt and chemicals on their sidewalks.
  • Thoroughly clean the paws, legs and abdomens of pets after they have been outside to prevent the ingestion of toxic substances and to prevent their paw pads from becoming dry and damaged. Signs of toxic ingestion include excessive drooling, vomiting and depression.
  • When letting pets in from outside, make sure to wipe their paws and undersides to get ice balls off their fur as soon as possible as this can cause frostbite. After being outside, check the paws, ears and tails of pets for frostbite. Frostbitten skin will appear pale or gray and can be treated by wrapping the area in a dry towel to gradually warm it. Check with veterinarians if a pet is suspected to have frostbite.
  • Use non-toxic antifreeze. Pets love the taste of antifreeze, but even a very small amount ingested can be deadly. Look for safe nontoxic antifreeze and consider using products that use propylene glycol rather than ethylene glycol, also make sure all spills are cleaned up immediately and thoroughly. Contact veterinarians right away if pets may have ingested any antifreeze.

“Winter storms are deadly, and the risk factor only increases when people are unaware of how to prepare,” said Dr. Ganzert. “By preparing for the worst, families can save lives.”

American Humane said it was founded in 1877 and is the country’s first national humane organization. It said it is committed to making sure that animals are safe and its leadership programs are to promote and nurture bonds between animals and people.