The Star-Herald

Cold weather pet safety tips

As I sit at my kitchen table looking out at the -4 degree temperature and the wind chill is 30 below, I shudder.   

We have had over a week of bitter cold temperatures, not only in Maine, but all across the country. My bird feeders are full of chickadees, finches, nuthatches, doves, woodpeckers, all scrambling for black oil sunflower seeds and suet, trying to restore their energy after a brutally cold winter’s night. Then my thoughts go to my two furry felines, Annie curled up in her favorite sun-porch chair and Willie stretched out on his new LL Bean bed, in front of the roaring heat of our woodstove. Lucky cats indeed. For the many that have pets in their lives and have a compassion for their furry friends, for the most part those pets enjoy a pampered, protected and happy life. But then my thoughts focus on the pets that are not so fortunate — those that are lost, stray or have owners that leave them outside, regardless of the weather conditions. The past week we have experienced bitter cold and dangerous wind chills, with even the days barely reaching into the single numbers. This extreme cold is so dangerous, not only for humans but especially for vulnerable pets.  I would like to thank Ted Shapiro and the WAGM crew and also the local radio stations, for continually warning owners about bringing their pets inside, this reaches many people and is a gentle reminder of the importance of protecting your four-legged family members. We need to be the voice of those that have none. Report any situations that you think could be dangerous for pets or farm animals, call your towns ACO (Animal Control Officer) or the Police Department. It could save the life of that animal.

Pet Friendly Canada and the ASPCA have some important tips. Many pets love to go for a romp in the snow, but with the cold weather, some extra precautions should be taken to ensure the safety and well-being of our pets:

Keep your pet warm — Do not leave them outside for extended periods in the cold weather, as hypothermia and frostbite are real hazards. Watch for shivering. Some pets may require a sweater or jacket to help keep them warm when walking in the cold.  Keep your cat inside.  Cats who are allowed to stray are exposed to infectious diseases, including rabies, from other cats, dogs and wildlife.  If there are outdoor cats in your area, bang loudly on the car before starting the engine, cats sometime will seek the warmth under your car hood.

Keep antifreeze out of your pet’s reach — Pets are attracted to the taste of antifreeze, yet it’s extremely poisonous! Amounts as little as a teaspoon can be lethal such road salt can irritate their paws and cause upset stomachs if ingested.

Adjust food intake to suit your pet’s winter activity level — If your dog spends a lot of time engaged in outdoor activities, increase his supply of food, particularly protein, to keep him, and his fur, in tip-top shape.

Never let your dog off the leash on snow or ice, especially during a snowstorm, dogs can lose their scent and easily become lost. More dogs are lost during the winter than during any other season, so make sure yours always wears ID tags.

Lastly, if you must have your pet outside for a period of time, make sure they have some place out of the elements and the wind, preferably a warm insulated dog house with a thick layer of straw for bedding. Remember to always have fresh water at all times.  

Stop by the Central Aroostook Humane Society and see the many wonderful pets just waiting for a loving home of their own!  We are open Tuesday through Saturday, 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., closing for lunch 12 noon to 12:30 p.m.. Please be responsible — spay and neuter your pets.

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