Cold Weather Preparation
Dear Readers: Cold weather is on the way, so it is time to "winterize" your pet's environment. You need to provide them with a warm retreat, ice-free water and an appropriate diet, and to protect them from highly toxic antifreeze.
Generally pets adapt their "thermostats" to their environment. But in winter it is impossible to keep pets at a steady temperature since they go back and forth between a warm house and frigid outdoors. If they are outdoors all the time, they grow thick coats that protect them for long periods in the cold, but make them too warm when they are indoors. House animals do not grow protective coats and cannot stay outdoors in the cold for very long. Outdoor dogs should have a well insulated dog house. The house should be small enough so body heat from the dog will keep it warm. Cover the opening with a flap of carpeting or heavy cloth.
Outdoor cats also need a protected retreat from the elements. It may be a garage or a box lined with blankets and placed on a protected porch or in a garage or outbuilding. Better yet, keep your cats indoors.
Make sure outdoor pets have access to ice-free water. They also will eat as much as 50% more food at the onset of cold weather. This probably gives them extra weight to help protect them from the cold. When the temperature dips to zero, outdoor pets should be moved to a closed garage or unheated basement. They need added shelter but would find the family living quarters too hot due to their heavy winter coats. Dogs and cats who live indoors need some exercise - whether it is play indoors or short walks outdoors. Watch their feet, ears and tails since such unprotected areas can quickly develop frostbite. Also, do not allow their feet to stay wet. Pets may stray when weather is severe so make sure they have adequate identification.
Finally, pets are attracted to the sweet taste of antifreeze which can cause fatal kidney damage. As little as one teaspoon can kill an eight-pound cat, and only one-and-a-half ounces can kill a 10-pound dog. So be careful to clean up any antifreeze spills and do not leave old antifreeze containers in the trash unless lids are securely tightened. Keeping cats and dogs indoors or confined to your own property minimizes the problems of poisoning, as well as encounters with other animals and cars.