With the forecast for temperatures in the teens and single digits for the rest of the week, pet owners need to protect their outdoor dogs and cats from the frigid weather.
“If you’re cold, your outdoor pets are cold,” said Jonnie England, Director of Animal Advocacy for the Metroplex Animal Coalition. “The body temperature of dogs and cats is just a little higher than a human’s, so even though they’re wearing ‘fur coats,’ they’re still going to suffer in weather this cold.”
Animals who live outdoors most of the year should be brought inside. “If it’s not feasible to bring the pets inside the house,” said England, “at the very least they should be set up in a draft-free garage or storage building with plenty of dry, clean bedding.” England cautions owners to be careful with heat lamps or electric heaters, and to make sure the cords are out of reach.
Shorthaired, very young, or old dogs and cats are most at risk and should not be left outside for more than a few minutes during freezing weather.
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Pets who do spend a lot of time outdoors need more food in the winter because keeping warm depletes energy. “Be sure to check your pet's water dish frequently to make certain the water is fresh and unfrozen,” said England. “Use plastic food and water bowls rather than metal. When the temperature is below 32 degrees, your pet's tongue could freeze to metal bowls.”
No matter what the temperature, wind chill can threaten a pet's life. “If a dog spends most of his life outdoors, he needs the protection of a dry, clean, draft-free doghouse,” said England. The house should be large enough for the dog to sit and lie down comfortably, but small enough to hold in his body heat. The floor should be raised a few inches off the ground and covered with straw. The house should be turned away from the wind, and the doorway should be covered with waterproof burlap or heavy plastic.