Remember to keep animals safe in cold weather

A bright sunny January afternoon can be deceiving. Snow disappears by melting rather than shoveling, and there’s no shortage of green lawns and yards dry roads all around.

The cold hard fact is that spring still is two months away and there’s a daily likelihood of winter cold and precipitation gripping the area.

Proper care for pets should remain at top of mind. Fur coats or not, animals aren’t meant to stay outdoors any more than people during winter months.

The Humane Society of the United States, the American Red Cross and Stray Rescue of St. Louis are but a few of the organizations that offer checklists of ways for pet owners to assure their animals of a comfortable, healthy cold-weather season:

Keep your pets inside with you. Cats should not be left outdoors, even if they roam outside during other seasons. Dogs are happy with frequent walks and being kept inside the rest of the time.

Just like us, windchill can threaten your pet’s life. Most dogs feel more comfortable wearing a sweater. During extreme cold, exposed skin, ears, and paw pads are at risk for frostbite and hypothermia.

Antifreeze is a deadly poison. Wipe up spills and store antifreeze out of reach.

After walks, wipe all paws with a damp towel before your pet licks them. Products such as rock salt used to melt snow and ice can irritate paw pads and their mouth.

The ASPCA also provides tips to prevent winter weather from affecting your pet’s health.

Coming out of the cold into the dry heat of your home can cause itchy, flaking skin. Towel dry your pet as soon as they come inside, especially your pet’s feet and between their paw pads.

Never shave your dog down to the skin in the winter. The longer their coat is, the warmer they will be.

Know your pet’s limits outdoors. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) reports you should be aware of how your pet tolerates cold weather and adjust as needed. Consult your veterinarian if you need advice.

Try to avoid bath time for your pet during cold spells. Washing too often can remove essential oils and increase the chance of developing dry, flaky skin.

Shivering is a sign your pet is too cold and indicates the start of hypothermia. A shivering pet must be SLOWLY warmed until the signs of hypothermia are gone. 

During the wintertime, pets burn extra energy by trying to stay warm. Feeding your pet a little bit more during winter weather can provide much-needed calories. Make sure there is fresh water to keep them hydrated and their skin moisturized.

Check your engine. A warm vehicle engine can be an appealing heat source for outdoor and feral cats, but it's deadly. Check underneath your car, bang on the hood, and honk the horn before starting the engine to make sure a cat hasn’t taken refuge on your engine.

Never leave your pets alone inside a car during winter weather. During the winter, cars can act as refrigerators that hold in the cold and cause animals to freeze to death. 

Be prepared: Winter can bring blizzards and power outages. Prepare an emergency kit and include your pet in your plans. Have enough food, water and medicine (including any prescription medications as well as heartworm and flea/tick preventives) on hand to get through at least five days.

Avoid walking on frozen water. Stay away from frozen ponds, lakes and other water. You don't know if the ice will support your pet's weight, and falling through the ice could be deadly.

Winter weather is the perfect time to cuddle up with your pet. A cozy dog or cat bed with a blanket is a perfect way to keep your pet safe during winter weather.