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Lake Tahoe Humane Society: Winter weather safety tips

Dear Henry,

I'm new to the area and not sure about how to deal with the cold weather and my dog. Do you have any tips for us?

Thank you,

Bethany

Dear Bethany,

Purrfect timing for this question as we are getting a winter this year. Here are some winter tips for all pets.

Keep your cats inside. During any time of the year, cats that are allowed to stray can become lost or stolen, injured or killed. They can also be exposed to infectious diseases, including rabies, from other cats, dogs and wildlife. We often get reports about people putting their cats out during snow storms. This is cruel and inhumane. If you can't keep your cat inside at least during bad weather then don't have a cat.

Keep puppies inside. Housebreaking a puppy is a difficult feat made even more stressful in the winter. Puppies do not tolerate the cold as well as adult dogs, and it may be difficult to housebreak them during the winter. If your puppy appears to be sensitive to the weather, you may choose to paper-train him inside. If your dog is sensitive to the cold due to age, illness or breed, take him outdoors only to relieve himself.

Safety tips for your pets around the car. You know how warm your car is after you turn it off? During the winter, outdoor cats or feral cats will sometimes sleep under the hoods of cars for warmth. Once the motor is started, the cat can be injured or killed by the fan belt. If there are outdoor cats in your area, bang loudly on the car hood before starting the engine to give the cat a chance to escape. Don't leave your pets in the car. Most people know not to leave their dog or cat alone in the car during the summer, but did you know that it is just as dangerous for them during the winter? A hot car is to an oven as a cold car is to a refrigerator, and you wouldn't put your pet in the refrigerator! Cars hold in the cold during the winter and can cause an animal to freeze to death. Check for dangerous materials around the car. Like coolant, antifreeze is a lethal poison for dogs and cats, and any spills should be cleaned up thoroughly. You should also consider using products that contain propylene glycol rather than ethylene glycol.

Keep your dogs on a leash, please. Did you know that more dogs are lost during the winter than any other season? Dogs can lose their scent in the snow and easily become lost. You should never let your dog off the leash on snow or ice, especially during a snowstorm. Also make sure you keep an area directly around your fence shoveled. Snow build can turn a high fence into a low fence that your dog can jump over. It is also a good idea to make sure your pet is wearing ID tags in case you do become separated.

Wipe away the cold. After you dog comes in from the snow, sleet or ice, be sure to thoroughly wipe off his/her legs, paws, stomach and anywhere else they came in contact with the cold stuff. Paw pads are particularly sensitive to the elements and can become dry, cracked and bleed from exposure to the snow and ice. Dogs can also pick up salt, antifreeze and other potentially dangerous chemicals while outside. Wiping them down can help prevent accidental ingestion.

Bundle up! You probably wouldn't go outside in the cold without a coat, so why would you let your dog? If normally you shave your dog's coat down to the skin, avoid doing this during the winter, as a longer coat will provide more warmth. Short-haired breeds will greatly benefit from a coat or sweater; it is best for them to be covered with a high collar or turtleneck and all the way to the base of the tail and the belly. When you bathe your dog in the colder months, be sure to completely dry him/her before heading out for a walk.

Give them a cozy bed. Before you settle in for a warm winter's nap, make sure your pet also has a bed — a warm blanket or pillow is perfect. A cuddle toy is optional.

Hoping this was helpful,

Hopeful Henry

Hopeful Henry is a column managed by Niki Congero, executive director of Lake Tahoe Humane Society & S.P.C.A. Need some pet advice? Ask Hopeful Henry. Submit questions or letters via e-mail to AskHenry@LakeTahoeHumaneSociety.org or by mail to P.O. Box PET South Lake Tahoe, CA 96158. Visit Facebook.com/LakeTahoeHumaneSocietySPCA, Facebook.com/Hopeful.Henry or Twitter.com/LtHumaneSociety.