MARY JO NAGY | Pets Keeping animals safe during winter

Every January I write an article about providing proper care for outside animals. Angels for Animals believes that pets should be kept indoors. Most shelter workers cannot understand why anyone would adopt a pet to then put it out on a chain.
I view too many animals without straw in their dog boxes, dog boxes that are in need of repair, many that have no shelter at all and still others without drinkable water. Just because an animal wears a fur coat does not guarantee that it will stay warm without proper shelter.
Also, if you would like a drink of water more than one time a day, so would your pet. During the coldest months it is important to keep your pet safe, warm and healthy. The following are some compassionate tips for pet guardians:
UDo not leave your pet outdoors. All animals are safer kept indoors, except for their daily exercise time. Very young, old and shorthaired pets should never be left outdoors. Never leave a pet outside when temperatures fall in the teens or with wind chills, which can threaten your pet's life. A pet left outdoors can get frostbite and even freeze to death. In very cold weather, pets that live outdoors need to be brought inside a warm garage or basement.
UA pet that is kept outdoors must be protected with a dry, draft-free house. A doghouse should be large enough for the dog to sit and lie down comfortably, but small enough for it to maintain body heat. This means the doghouse needs four sides, not three, to protect an animal. The floor should be raised a few inches off the ground to keep it dry. Use straw or cedar shavings for warmth. Do not use blankets, as they can become wet and do not provide enough heat. The doghouse should be turned away from the wind. Cover the doorway with burlap or heavy plastic. Outdoor cats will need some type of shelter as well.
They need more food
UIncrease the amount of food you give your pet during cold weather because an animal uses a lot of energy to stay warm. Try using food with a high protein content. Water should be changed frequently. Keep the water fresh and unfrozen. No animal can drink frozen water. Never use metal bowls, only plastic. You do not want your pet's tongue to stick and freeze to the sides of a metal bowl. Also make sure the bowl is secure to prevent spillage. Do not let your animal dehydrate.
UCats and small wild animals are attracted to warm engines in parked cars. They crawl under the hood to keep warm. Always bang on the hood of your car to scare hidden animals before starting your car.
Protection from poisoning
UAntifreeze is deadly but has a sweet taste to pets. Store antifreeze out of the reach of children and pets. Only use antifreeze coolant made with propylene glycol, such as Sierra. If swallowed in small amounts these types of antifreeze will not hurt pets. Keep your veterinarian's phone number or the emergency clinic's number handy if an accident should happen. Act quickly; it could mean the difference between life or death of your pet.
USalt and chemicals used on icy roads can irritate your pet's feet and stomach. Wipe your pet's feet with a wet towel after going outside to remove any salt. If an upset stomach should occur, call your veterinarian.
UGive your dog a walk daily and some quality time. Outdoor dogs need to be played with and loved, too.
The best advice for your pet in the winter is to stay inside. The happiest pets are those that have human companionship. If your animal is outdoors, please spend some time with it every day beyond basic food and water changes.
Animals love exercise, walks and attention. If you need straw for your dog box, call Angels for Animals at (330) 549-1111. Let's make this year a compassionate year, free from neglect and abuse.
XMary Jo Nagy is a volunteer with Angels for Animals.

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