[In her new column, North Bend resident and pet trainer at Miss Lola’s Academy for Wayward Dogs, Melissa Grant, offers important winter safety tips for your four-legged family member.]
Our Valley is beautiful this time of year but can be very cold icy and snowy at times. Our pets can be the first to suffer from inclement weather, but fortunately there are many easy ways to ensure the health and safety of beloved pets and other animals.
Cool cat cautions
Some small animals, in particular cats, can be attracted to the heat of car engines and take refuge from the cold under the hood of our cars. Be sure to bang on the hood, toot your horn and check around your tires before turning on your engine on these cold mornings. If you start your engine, an unsuspecting kitty can be hurt by the engine fan belt or get caught and dragged by the car. Make sure you give the sleepy kitty enough time to wiggle out of whatever tight space they’ve crawled into.
The best way to keep Fluffy safe from car engines is to keep her inside during cold weather. Cats can get frostbite and it usually occurs on the toes, ears, and tail. Older cats and cats with arthritis can experience more pain associated with their joints when the weather is bad. Providing a source of extra warmth with a heated pad or bed can help your cat to be more comfortable.
I noticed my 15-year old cat was sleeping in a tight ball – our house is pretty cold right now – so I got him a heated pad for his bed. Now he sleeps stretched out like a lion. Make sure it is specifically designed for pets to prevent burns. *Note he wouldn’t cooperate for a picture said his hair wasn’t right.
Frigid Fido Information
If you have a coated dog never shave them too short in the winter months. If you have a naturally short coated dog, consider doggie clothes to keep him warm. Booties are a good way to prevent problems with foot pads and to keep his feet salt and antifreeze free. Get your pooch used to wearing them slowly by putting one boot on and scattering treats around on the floor. He will be so focused on the tasty treats he’ll soon forget about his feet. Add one boot at a time until he is used to wearing them…and quits walking funny.
When you bathe your dog, be sure he is completely dry before allowing him to go outside. Consider cutting back the amount of baths your dog gets altogether as they strip your dog’s coat of essential oils. If you do bathe your dog use a moisturizing shampoo and consider a balm to keep his pads/feet from cracking and chafing. Make sure your dog is comfortable having his feet wiped so you can examine them for problems or ice between their toes.
Be sure to have a good solid recall when out walking in the winter time. Dogs can easily lose their scent in the snow if they run off and become lost. Make sure all pets have a current microchip and wear and ID tag. Leave it is another good command to have to prevent dogs from eating snow and ingesting something unseen.
Outdoor dogs should come inside whenever possible but if it’s just not possible be sure they have a covered warm space to rest in (preferably heated and windproof) Give them clean dry bedding daily and remember that water dishes freeze. Consider a heated water bowl. The same goes for outdoor, barn and feral cats.
General pet advice
Outdoor cats and small dogs have a much harder time dealing with lower temperatures than larger dogs or animals so a cat that is totally fine in the warmer months may need more calories in the winter months. Step up their food intake if they are active. Extra water can help coats and skin that dry out in electrically heated rooms.
Antifreeze and rock salt are toxic to and any animal who spends time out of roads should have their paws, legs and belly wiped regularly. More dogs and cats disappear in the winter months than the rest of the year.
Just like us, our pets need shelter, food, warmth and care during the winter months to be safe. If you feel the need to stay indoors likely your pet does too. Follow these easy tips and have a happy and healthy winter with your pets. Stay safe! Woof!