Tips for keeping your pet safe this winter

Last week’s ice and “polar vortex” were a stark reminder that winter is here.  While we tend to focus on the effects winter has on traffic and on our friends and neighbors, we often overlook the effect winter weather has on our pets, especially when it becomes extreme like last week.  Although we’ve had a nice round of warmer weather the past few days, winter is far from over and it is safe to bet that we’ll have more rounds of cold and possibly more snow and/or ice.  With that in mind, The Sun-Times and Heber Springs Animal Control would like to offer a few tips for keeping your pet safe.

For outdoor pets, remember that animals feel cold too.  According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AMVA), the fact that pets have fur does not make them immune from the effects of cold weather.  “It’s a common belief that dogs and cats are more resistant than people to cold weather because of their fur, but it’s untrue,” said the AMVA.  Larger dogs with longer hair and those breeds that have traits appropriate for colder climates can tolerate cold weather better than others, but they are still susceptible to hypothermia and frostbite if they are exposed to extreme cold for long periods of time, as we just experienced with the polar vortex.

Cold weather can also exacerbate previously existing conditions in pets, such as arthritis, diabetes, and kidney disease as these ailments make it harder for your pet to regulate its body temperature. 

For indoor pets, especially dogs, keep these tips in mind.  When you let your dog or cat outside or take your pet for a walk, don’t do it for an extended period in extreme cold.  If you do walk your pet, make sure to check its paws when you get home for any signs of frostbite.  Also, chemicals on roads, such as antifreeze, still to your pet’s paws easily when there is winter precipitation on the ground.  If you walk your pet on a road during this time, it’s a good idea to wash the paws to get rid of any toxic chemicals that may harm them when they lick their paws.

If your pet must stay outside, try to find a proper shelter to protect them from wind and precipitation. 

Always check under your car before driving off.  Stray animals will often take shelter under vehicles to hide from winter precipitation.

Heber Animal Control Officer Zach Carlisle offered some advice to pet owners.  “If it feels too cold to you outside, it most likely feels too cold to your pet.  Please take a moment to make sure they have a source of warmth too,” said Carlisle.

Heber Springs Police Chief Bobby Walker also offered some advice for pet owners.  “If your pet’s food bowl is empty, don’t automatically assume it must be hungry,” said Walker.  “Oftentimes, pets will gobble up everything in their bowl during cold weather.”