By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter
OKLAHOMA CITY, OK – Meteorologists say that a dangerous cold front is expected this weekend in Oklahoma City sending temperatures plummeting, which can be deadly for pets without a warm place to take shelter.
Whenever possible, it’s best for cats and dogs to be kept indoors during the winter months. If, for some reason this isn’t an option, pet owners must make sure to take precautions to ensure a pet’s safety when outdoors.
Outdoor animals need a place that is insulated and protected from the weather. It is best to face the entrance away from the wind with a flap over the doorway to keep drafts to a minimum.
Structures should be waterproof and large enough for your dog to lie down. However, keep in mind the smaller the area the easier it will be for the dog’s body to heat the house.
Clean hay, straw, cedar shavings or blankets should be placed in the doghouse for added warmth and comfort.
People are becoming more conscious about not leaving pets in the car during periods of extreme heat, but according to the ASPCA, owners also should never leave their dog or cat alone in a car during cold weather. The car can become a refrigerator in which pets can freeze to death.
Cats and other wild animals that live outdoors may seek warmth by crawling into car engines or wheel wells. It is a good idea to hit or bang on the car’s hood or sound the horn before starting the engine so the animal will have time to escape from what could be a traumatic situation.
“While making adjustments to keep yourself warm, it is vital to do the same for your pets,” said Dr. Daniel Burba, interim department head of Continuing Education, Extension and Community Engagement at the Center for Veterinary Health Sciences at Oklahoma State University.
“Your pets are 100 percent dependent on their owners for proper care. As you change your routine to meet the demands of cold weather, your pets must get the same from you,” Burba said.
The Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI) is an international trade association representing more than 100 power equipment, engine and utility vehicle manufacturers and suppliers. OPEI offers these winter storm safety tips for pets.
Lucky the TurfMutt is a former street dog who spent cold days and nights without a home before he was rescued by Kris Kiser, President and CEO of OPEI. Now, Lucky has a warm bed to sleep in and a new mission – to teach kids and their families about the importance of living landscapes.
Living landscapes, including a mix of climate-appropriate grass, trees, shrubs and flowering plants, contribute to the health and well-being of people, pets and wildlife.
Part of taking care of the family yard in the winter months includes cleaning up after snow and ice storms. “Even though we have fur coats, pets feel the cold just like humans do, and I know just how uncomfortable that can be first-paw from living on the streets before Kris rescued me,” says Lucky the TurfMutt. “I want to encourage families to ‘bone up’ on these tips for keeping everyone in your family – including your pets – safe and warm this winter.”
Reduce outdoor activities when temperatures dip low. Pets will always be most comfortable inside with their companions, but it’s imperative to keep them indoors during severe weather.
Don’t cut your dog’s fur in the wintertime. Pets naturally develop winter coats to protect them from the harsh, cold elements. It is advised that when the temperature is below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, shorthaired dogs, elderly dogs and puppies should be kept indoors for their safety. Paws, ears and tails are most susceptible to frostbite.
After bathroom breaks and walks, check your pet’s ears, paws and tail for any sign of frostbite.
Keep a dry, clean towel handy to wipe down your pet’s legs, belly and paws after each outdoor excursion. Ice-melt chemicals can irritate their skin and cause serious illness if ingested.
Antifreeze smells and tastes sweet to pets, but it’s toxic to dogs and cats. Quickly clean up any spills, and consider using a brand made from non-toxic propylene glycol instead. The signs of antifreeze poisoning include staggering and appearing depressed. These symptoms can last up to 12 hours, and it may even appear your pet is getting better. However, within 24 hours there will be prolonged vomiting, severe kidney pain, mouth and throat ulcers and ultimately the toxin will kill the pet. It is imperative antifreeze spills get cleaned up right away. Be sure to store containers of antifreeze in sealed containers where children and pets can’t reach it.
If possible, ensure your pet has plenty of fresh, clean (and thawed) water to drink. Winter air is dry.
“Like most dogs, Lucky loves to romp in the snow, but one of our rules is that if it’s too cold for us to be outside, it’s too cold for him, too,” says Kiser. “As guardians of our pets, it’s important that we keep their safety in mind during all kinds of weather.”
TurfMutt was created by the OPEI Research and Education Foundation and has reached more than 68 million children, educators and families since 2009. To learn more about the benefits of your family lawn for pets and people during all seasons, go to SaveLivingLandscapes.com and TurfMutt.com.