Pets and the Winter Weather

The American Veterinary Medical Association, Humane Society of the United States and American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals offer these safety tips for pets:

■ Keep them inside when the temperature drops below freezing.

■ Bang on the hood of your car before starting it to scare away stray cats that may have sought warmth from the engine.

■ Never let your dog off the leash on snow or ice, especially during a snowstorm, when dogs can lose their scent and become lost. More dogs are lost during the winter than any other season, so keep ID tags on a well-fitting collar.

■ Wipe off your dog’s paws, legs and belly after a walk to remove ice, salt and antifreeze. Make sure a freshly bathed dog is completely dry before taking it outside.

■ Put a coat or sweater with a high collar on short-haired dogs.

■ Check your dog’s paws frequently for signs of cold-weather injury or damage, such as cracked paw pads or bleeding. During a walk, sudden lameness may be due to ice accumulation between the toes.

■ Postpone housebreaking puppies during the coldest months.

■ Don’t leave a pet alone in a room with a space heater. It could get knocked over and start a fire.

■ Dogs that can tolerate long, cold walks — the larger breeds with thick fur — will need to eat more high-protein food.

■ Pets need a place to sleep off the floor and away from drafts.

■ Dogs that spend any time in the yard must have a dry, draft free shelter large enough to lie down in, but small enough to retain body heat. The floor should be a few inches off the ground and covered with cedar shavings or straw. The doorway should be covered with waterproof burlap or heavy plastic. Do not use metal bowls for food and water

■ Feral cats need shelter, too. Learn how to make a cat shelter at

■ ”The best tip of all: keep your pets with you,” the Humane Society says. ”The happiest dogs are those who are taken out frequently for walks and exercise, but kept inside the rest of the time.”

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