Winter weather is upon us, and it can be just as problematic for pets as it is for people. Cold weather can pose serious threats to pets’ health and safety. Here are some tips for keep pets safe in the cold weather:
- During below-freezing temperatures, the best place for your pet is inside! Cats should be kept indoors exclusively and dogs should only be taken out only briefly to urinate and/or defecate.
- If you absolutely must leave pets outdoors for a limited amount of time, provide them with a shelter. It should be dry, clean, and well-insulated (straw works well to trap heat), and it should protect them from the wind and elements. Be sure to check outdoor water bowls and feeding dishes frequently to be sure they haven’t frozen.
- Having fur does not necessarily mean that they are better acclimated to the cold weather than humans. Short-haired breeds, puppies/kittens, elderly pets and pets with certain medical issues can feel the effects of cold weather faster than other dogs and cats. Consider a sweater or coat if your pet seems especially bothered by cold temperatures. Pets can get frostbite and hypothermia, just like people. Symptoms for hypothermia in pets involve whining, shivering, anxiety, lethargy or weakness. If any of these symptoms are noted after a pet’s exposure to cold weather, please seek veterinary care immediately. Frostbite can be harder to detect, and may not be fully recognized for a few days. By then, the damage has been done. Please seek veterinary care immediately if your pet displays any unusual or concerning symptoms.
- Hot cars are known to be dangerous for pets, but cold cars also pose a significant risk! A car can cool down rapidly in cold weather, becoming like a refrigerator, and can chill your pet quickly. Pets that are young, old, ill or thin are particularly susceptible to the cold and should never be left in a cold car. Do not leave any pets unattended in a vehicle.
- Keep your dog on a leash whenever possible. Snow and ice can mask familiar scents, causing your dog to become disoriented and potentially lost. Snow can also knock down fences or act as a ramp for pets to escape a normally-secure yard.
- When outdoors during the winter, pets’ feet, legs and bellies can pick up deicers, antifreeze or other toxic chemicals. Pets can then lick themselves and ingest these dangerous chemicals. When you get back inside with your pet, wipe down or wash your pet’s feet, legs and belly to remove these chemicals. Consider using pet-safe deicers on your property to protect your pet.
- In Marion County, report any animals left outside in below-freezing temperatures to the Mayor’s Action Center at 317-327-4MAC. In the event of an after-hours emergency, you can call the police non-emergency number to seek help for a pet left outdoors at 327-3811.
- If you need emergency shelter for your pet due to loss of heat, electricity or housing, you may contact Indianapolis Animal Care & Control for up to 10 days of emergency shelter for your pet.