Tips for Keeping Your Furry Friends Comfortable During the Winter
By Dr. Bentley
Hi there! I’m Dr. Caitlin Bentley, one of the newest board members of Tails of the Trail. From time to time, I’ll be popping in here to offer some vet tips, insight into how animal shelters work, and other tidbits to make your life with your furry friends easier. I’m one of the vets at Metro Nashville Animal Care and Control. I’ve got two dogs and two cats of my own, all from shelters, and I’m passionate about shelter medicine. I’m also passionate about dressing my dogs in matching bandannas, cat toys that are shaped like human food, and telling my dogs about a thousand times a day how cute they are. I can’t wait to get to know the Tails of the Trail family! Now, down to business.
With the holidays over, we’ve still got a long winter ahead of us. It’s during these dreary days that I start longing for spring, or even humid summer! Our dogs and cats can be affected by cold weather just as much as we are. Here are a few tips to keep them warm and cozy during the long slog towards spring.
· Help them on their potty breaks: Sometimes pups can be reluctant to potty outdoors on snow. I can’t say that I blame them, I bundle up with wool socks and boots to go in the snow, while they have only bare paws! To remedy this, try grabbing some straw from your local grange or feed store and scattering it outside the door or porch. This can help keep their paws insulated while doing their business.
· Bring them inside: Many cities have ordinances that don’t allow pets to be kept outside in extreme weather. Here in Nashville, dogs cannot be tethered when it is below freezing, and owners can be cited and subject to legal consequences. It’s best to bring pets indoors when it’s freezing outside, so they can stay warm, well fed, and healthy.
· Clean them off: Salt and de-icing compounds are often spread on icy winter roads, and these can be irritating to tender paws, and irritating to tender mouths when licked off. Keep a towel by your door to wipe down your pets when they get inside.
· Beware the antifreeze: Antifreeze is poisonous and deadly for dogs, cats, and children. If you spill any, clean it up promptly. Its sweet taste is irresistible to animals and children, and even a small amount consumed can cause life-threatening illness.
· Consider providing a feral cat shelter: Feral, or community, cats need to stay warm in the winter, too. Consider making them a shelter out of an inexpensive styrofoam cooler. Simply obtain a cooler, tape the lid on, cut a cat-sized hole in the side, and bed with straw. Some organizations even provide these shelters for free, like Pet Community Center in Nashville. Check with your local community cat group, and consider becoming a caretaker for community cats in your neighborhood.
· Don’t stop prevention: As a vet, I am obligated to tell you: even though it’s wintertime, your pets still need their monthly flea/tick and heartworm prevention. It’s true, when you graduate veterinary school, you must solemnly swear that “I shall always chastise pet owners for forgetting their prevention.” As much as we would all love it if the danger of fleas, disease-carrying ticks, and heartworm larvae disappeared in the winter months, it’s not the case. Keep your pets safe from pests with prevention year-round.
· If you see something, say something: If you see an animal that is struggling outside in the cold, please contact your local animal control. Animal control officers do their best to work with people to allow them to keep their pets. Sometimes people just don’t know what’s best or have financial constraints. I’ve known animal control officers who bring bags of pet food to people in need, buy new doghouses to replace leaky ones, and bring straw bedding to warm outdoor dogs. If you’re worried about a pet in your neighborhood, don’t be afraid to call your local animal control agency. They’ll be happy to have the chance to save a pet.
Keep your fuzzy bundles of love close and warm this winter! Together, I know we’ll make it to spring!