Animal column: Get pets ready for winter |

Animal column: Get pets ready for winter

Niki Congero
Tribune Opinion Columnist
Courtesy photo |

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,


It’s purrfect timing for this question as it actually looks like we are going to get a winter this year. Here are tips for all pets.


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.


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. 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 type, take him outdoors only to relieve himself.


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.


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-up can turn a high fence into a low fence that your dog can now jump over. It is a good idea to make sure your pet is wearing ID tags in case you do become separated.


After you dog comes in from the snow, sleet, or ice, be sure to thoroughly wipe off his 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, or other potentially dangerous chemicals while outside — wiping him or her down can help prevent accidental ingestion.


You probably wouldn’t go outside in the cold without a coat, so why would you let your dog? If you normally 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 before taking him out for a walk.


Before you settle in for a warm winter’s nap, make sure your pet also has a cozy sleeping space by providing them with a cat or dog bed, a warm blanket or pillow. A cuddle toy is optional.


Reminder to all Tahoe Pet lovers — this Saturday, Nov. 14, is your opportunity to meet Hopeful Henry in person at Lake Tahoe Humane Society’s 29th annual Santa Paws event. Bring your furry family member down to Tahoe Production House, 2219 Lake Tahoe Blvd., between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. and get their photo taken with Tahoe’s’ exclusive Santa Dog. Turn your picture into custom cards and ornaments; it’s an opportunity to purchase fun gifts for pets and people and refreshments will be served. Limited appointments are available so call now 530-542-2857’ walk-ins are still welcome. One-hundred percent of funds raised help local animals in need.

Hopeful Henry is a column managed by Niki Congero, executive director of Lake Tahoe Humane Society & S.P.C.A. Submit questions or letters via e-mail to or by mail to P.O. Box PET South Lake Tahoe, CA 96158. For more information, visit, or

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