The SPCA of Texas is advising the community about how to protect pets from harsh outdoor conditions as record-breaking low temperatures hit North Texas in the coming days.
According to the SPCA, freezing temperatures can be dangerous and even deadly for animals, so it is best to keep pets indoors as much as possible.
The SPCA said to keep in mind that if you are cold outside, your pet will be, too.
Dallas requires all pets to have access to a warm, dry shelter once actual or effective temperatures reach 32 degrees Fahrenheit.
"The law requires that pets have adequate shelter, but what is adequate during our typical 50-degree winter days is not adequate during the freezing weather we are facing now," Ed Jamison, director of Dallas Animal Services, said. "The safest option is to bring your pets indoors."
Wet and cold weather can lead to hypothermia or pneumonia in animals, the SPCA said. Very young or very old animals are also more susceptible to suffering medical issues due to the cold.
Outside time should be limited to quick walks or bathroom breaks, and pets should avoid pavement and walk on grass when possible.
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Owners should consider providing their pets with a pet sweater and booties to protect their paws from ice or snow, the SPCA said.
The SPCA of Texas said it never recommends leaving pets outside full time, but if pets must stay outside for extended periods of time, their living quarters should be weatherproofed.
The shelter must be covered, dry, insulated, filled with hay or other bedding and should retain heat, the SPCA said. It should also be made up of three sides, a roof, and a floor. The house should be elevated and the entrance pointed away from wind.
According to the SPCA, it could be considered a form of animal cruelty and therefore against the law in the state of Texas to leave your pet outdoors in extreme temperatures without appropriate shelter.
Owners should monitor the time pets spend outdoors and be sure pet always has fresh water to drink that is not frozen, the SPCA said.
Outdoor dogs need more calories in the winter to produce body heat, so owners should increase the amount they feed their pets if they stay outdoors for long periods of time.
Pet owners often innocently assume their pets can withstand the cold weather due to their thick coats, but, according to the SPCA, this is not always the case. Indoor dogs shed their undercoats and should not be made to stay outside for extended periods of time.
"Don't be fooled by your pet's fur coat," Jamison said. "Even winter breeds with thick coats are at risk when temperatures reach freezing, particularly here in Texas where pets are not used to this type of weather."
Owners should never shave their pets down to the skin in the winter, and should instead leave their coats long for more warmth. According to the SPCA, when owners bathe their pets, they should completely dry their pet's coat before letting them go outdoors.
Salt, antifreeze and other chemicals could hurt pets if they ingest them while licking their paws, so owners should wipe their pets' paws and legs clean with a wet cloth after an outing, the SPCA said. Chemicals used to melt snow and ice can irritate paws and could potentially lead to frostbite, cuts, or cracks.
Owners should be sure to check before starting their cars to make sure that there are no animals hiding in the exhaust pipe or under their tires. Cats and small animals may seek shelter near or under cars, so be sure to look carefully and honk the horn before turning on the engine.
The SPCA said that owners should never leave their dog or cat alone in a car during cold weather. According to the SPCA, a car can act as a refrigerator in the winter by holding in the cold, and the animal could freeze to death.