Keeping Pets Safe in Winter Weather

By Rose Cordes

Keeping Pets Safe in Winter Weather

February 1, 2011 Updated Feb 1, 2011 at 5:24 PM CDT

As the winter storm enters the area, the Humane Society and the Red Cross of Central Illinois urge pet owners not to forget about their four legged friends. Cold weather and winter weather conditions can pose serious health risks to family pets.

"Animals rely solely on their human caregivers for safety and comfort — especially during the winter months," said John Snyder, vice president of companion animals for The HSUS. "Our pets are particularly vulnerable during this frigid season, and with just a few extra precautions you can help make sure that they stay safe and healthy."

Obviously the best option is to keep pets indoors during harsh winter weather. However, if that is not possible the Humane Society and Red Cross offer these guidelines on how to keep your pets safe outdoors:

-If pets cannot come indoors, make sure they are protected by a dry, draft-free enclosure large enough to allow them to sit and lie down, but small enough to hold in the pet’s body heat. Raise the floor a few inches off the ground and cover it with cedar shavings or straw. Turn the enclosure away from the wind and cover the doorway with waterproof burlap or heavy plastic.

- Pets who spend a lot of time outdoors need more food in the winter because keeping warm depletes energy. Routinely check your pet's water dish to make certain the water is fresh and unfrozen. Use plastic food and water bowls rather than metal; when the temperature is low, your pet's tongue can stick and freeze to metal.

-Warm engines in parked cars attract cats and small wildlife, who may crawl up under the hood. To avoid injuring any hidden animals, bang on your car's hood to scare them away before starting your engine.

- The salt and other chemicals used to melt snow and ice can irritate the pads of your pet's feet and may be harmful if ingested. Wipe their feet with a damp towel before your pet licks them to remove snow packed between your pet's paws.

-Antifreeze is a deadly poison, but it has a sweet taste that can attract animals and children. Wipe up spills and store antifreeze (and all household chemicals) out of reach.

And many areas leaving a domestic animal outside during extreme cold, with access to shelter, food and/or water violates state or local animal cruelty laws.