While Rover might love frolicking in the snow, Animal Control Officer Ed Risko said pet owners should be mindful of their animals when they’re outside.
“You really have to watch the individual animal,” he said.
According to the Emergency Animal Response Service (EARS), pet owners should never leave animals outside for long periods of time during cold weather.
“It’s important to keep an eye on them for signs that they are getting too cold and need to come inside. Similar signs for people can be seen in animals, such as shivering, heavy breathing, and slow moving. If you notice any of these in your animals, bring them inside immediately,” stated a press release from EARS.
Risko said short-haired animals have less fur and are likely to get cold faster than their long-haired counterparts and that it’s advisable to bundle them up in coats before they go outside.
Pet owners should not leave their animals outside and unattended. They should be mindful that they walk in the snow and not the roads when taking pets for a walk, Risko said. He said many pet owners forget or don’t know to wipe off their pet’s paws after going for a walk along the road, where plows have put down different chemicals to melt the ice and provide traction on the slushy streets.
“Now they’re using all these chemicals to treat the streets, so as soon as [pets] finish their walk there should be a foot bath,” Risko said.
He also said pet owners should consider putting boots on their animals’ paws to protect them from the cold and grime in the roads when going outside.
“If your dog frequently lifts up his paws, whines or stops during its walks, it is demonstrating that its feet are uncomfortably cold,” Risko said.
He also said people shouldn’t leave their dogs and cats outside unattended because electric fences can fail when they’re covered in ice.
Risko said that Animal Control receives an “unfortunate” number of calls about pets being struck by cars this time of year.
“The next thing we know is the dog is in the street because the paths of travel that are cleared are sidewalks into driveways and driveways into streets. That’s the only place dogs and cats are going to go. They can’t get out of the streets because of the snowbanks,” he said.
Risko said pet owners should also be mindful of the size of their pets when letting them outside. Smaller animals are often able to walk easily on top of the snow, while larger dogs often have difficulty moving about when they sink in deep snow.
In an effort to keep their animals out of the road, Risko said, pet owners should consider making a path for their animals to walk through within their yards to provide a safer winter walkway.
Risko also said animals are more likely to experience hip injuries this time of year from sliding on ice or constantly jumping from snowbanks.
Pet owners should also be mindful of how much they’re feeding their pets this time of year, as pets are likely to be less active since they can’t spend as much time outside in the snow. However, if the dog is often outside and is very active, the dog might require more food to help it stay active and keep warm.
Animals are also susceptible to frostbite when the temperature drops below 32 degrees. According to EARS, animals can get frostbite within minutes of being outside.
“Frostbite is most likely to happen in body parts farthest from the heart and with a lot of exposed surface area such as the paws and ears. Some of the earliest signs of frostbite are red areas, which may become itchy to dogs, inflamed, or could hurt them when the area is touched. The worst cases of frostbite can result in areas of skin becoming dark or black after a few days; these are the severe cases that could result in the need to amputate an affected area,” EARS said.
After pets come inside, their owners should help them warm up by drying them off or wrapping them in a warm towel or blanket (and giving them cuddles).
For more information about caring for pets during the winter, call Animal Control at 203-452-3760.