As the temperatures in the Pittsburgh region dip to near single digits overnight, and remain below freezing during the day, pet owners are advised to make sure their cats and dogs are kept warm. The Humane Society of Western Pennsylvania receives calls each winter about dogs and cats left outside in freezing weather with no shelter. The first thing a pet owner is advised to do when the temperature drops is to bring dogs and cats indoors.
“If you have pets, keeping them outside during this kind of weather can be very hard on them, particularly if they are short-coated or not used to being outside in this type of weather,” said Humane Society’s Gretchen Fieser.
Fieser said an outdoor pet can be kept in a garage or basement, but should always have access to fresh water and food, and a warm place to sleep. If a dog has to be left outside, she recommends a dog house with a solid roof and bed of straw, not blankets or towels.
Cold temperatures aren’t the only threat to dogs this time of year. The salts and chemicals used to melt ice and snow can also be harmful.
“It can actually burn the pads of their feet when they walk on the salt,” said Fieser, “there are some products that you can purchase at local pet stores, whether they’re special waxes you put on the pets’ pads, some people also use special booties for their dogs when they’re out walking.”
Other potential hazards include antifreeze, which kills thousands of pets each year. Pets are attracted to its sweet smell and just a couple teaspoons can kill. The Humane Society recommends checking vehicles for leaks, boil overs, and to watch out for improperly stored containers of leftover antifreeze.
Dogs aren’t the only household pet that can be impacted by cold temperatures.
“If you have your car kept outside, and sometimes stray cats can even find their way into garages. You want to make sure there is no cat hiding in your engine block. Every year we have people who bring in a cat that gets caught up in the engine because they’re seeking the warmth from the heat of your engine,” said Fieser.
Animal control officers with the Humane Society are busy this time of year, investigating reports of animals left out in harsh conditions. If you suspect an animal may be living in harsh conditions, you can file a report with the Humane Society. If your pet gets too cold, Fieser said wrapping them in a warm blanket can help, if that doesn’t help, medical attention may be needed. She added extra care should be taken for senior dogs, who are more susceptible to slipping and falling on the ice.