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Keeping Your Pet Safe in Winter Temperatures

Even dogs with heavy coats need shelter from the cold temperatures; those with thinner coats need it even more.
Even dogs with heavy coats need shelter from the cold temperatures; those with thinner coats need it even more.

That cold snap in the weather this week is a reminder that Winter is not far away.  Let it also remind you to take advantage of the milder days now to make sure your furry friends will stay safe and warm when the outdoor temps drop below forty degrees for an extended time.  Pet may have fur coats but they are susceptible to frostbite and hypothermia, and need protection from the cold and the wind.

     For an outside dog, nothing protects as well as a good shelter.  You can buy a dog house made with waterproof materials, or make one yourself, using a wooden box.  It should be large enough for the dog to sit and turn around, but small enough to conserve body heat.   Insulation helps keep your pet warm, and can be something as simple as old blankets, cedar shavings or hay.  In frigid temperatures, check to make sure the bedding is dry, because wet bedding can kill a pet in winter.  The shelter door or opening should face away from the wind, and be covered with canvas or burlap.  Putting it in a garage, or carport or a covered porch, will offer more protection.

     One easy way to provide winter shelter for an outdoor cat is to use a Styrofoam cooler.  Cut an opening just large enough for the cat to get in, then put straw on the bottom.  The drawback is that Styrofoam is not weatherproof.  Some have combined the Styrofoam cooler with a plastic storage bin; put the cooler inside the bin, then cut matching holes in both so they line up and the cat can easily snuggle inside.  Or you can buy a winter cat shelter.

     Whether it’s a dog or cat shelter, raising it a few inches off the ground will help prevent the coldness of the ground or floor from seeping up into the floor of the shelter.

     And whatever shelter you provide, always make sure your outdoor animals have frequent access to fresh UNFROZEN water. 

     Use the milder weather now to make sure your outdoor dog or cat has winter shelter to protect it from hypothermia, because it’s up to you to make sure your furry buddy stays safe through the cold winter months, when you’re speaking of pets.


Mindy Norton has been “Speaking of Pets” on Alabama Public Radio since 1995.