By Chris Nelson
La Plata County Humane Society
Baby, its cold outside. While I have seen a few of the more hardy La Plata County residents still wearing shorts lately, winter is here, folks. The low temperature for tonight is going to be in the teens, and the forecast is calling for single digits by Sunday night. If you have not already done so, it is time to make your cats and dogs safe for these conditions.
I would hope that most of you will be bringing your cats and dogs indoors this time of year. This is the ideal way to keep them safe during the winter. Your dog laying by the fire at your feet, and your cat cuddled up in your lap. I realize that everyone doesn’t allow their pets indoors, so here are a few tips to help keep our four-legged friends as warm and healthy as possible.
If you are going for a walk or a hike with your dog, keep in mind that their feet can be very sensitive to the cold. When hiking through snow, dogs can get quite a buildup of ice and snowballs between their pads. If walking on frigid pavement, imagine that you are barefooted. You probably wouldn’t feel too comfortable. Consider buying your dog boots for extended walks and hikes.
Both cats and dogs need 3 basic requirements when staying outdoors for extended periods in the winter, especially at night. First is shelter. A doghouse, dogloo, garage or barns are great choices.
Heated structures are best, but if not possible, use blankets or a heavy amount of straw for bedding. If you don’t have one of the above structures, consider building one from straw bales. A warm and windproof shelter can be built from just a few bales and is not expensive.
The second and third requirements are food and water. The water should ideally be kept in a heated bowl and changed frequently to be kept fresh. If a heated bowl is not available, then it should be checked several times per day. Food should also be provided fresh at least twice daily. Our pets expend lots of calories when trying to stay warm, so make sure you keep them at a good body weight throughout winter.
Finally, be mindful of dogs and cats with short coats. Breeds like Chihuahua, pointer, pit bulls and hounds have a much tougher time staying warm than huskies and chows. Short-haired cats are also more susceptible to low temperatures then their long-haired cousins.
Remember your pets this time of the year, and keep them healthy and safe. Have a great holiday season and thanks for supporting the humane society all year long.
Chris Nelson is director of Animal Services at the La Plata County Humane Society.