Winter Safety Tips May Save Your Pet's Life
Winter chills are creeping into New Mexico, and no one feels those more than animals who are left outside.
Dogs in particular are social creatures who enjoy companionship with their human pack. Citizens should assure animals are warm this season by keeping them indoors as much as possible.
It’s a common misconception that dogs and cats won’t get cold because of their fur. Most domestic animals are not well equipped for cold weather and can easily be susceptible to frost bite and hypothermia, according to Animal Protection of New Mexico.
Dogs can be particularly vulnerable. Toy breeds and short-haired dogs do not conserve body heat well and can quickly succumb to hypothermia. Breeds with short hair or fine coats are often victims of frostbite. Elderly dogs and puppies often cannot adequately control body temperatures. Arthritic dogs are much more susceptible in cold weather. The most susceptible areas of the body to frostbite are the tips of ears, scrotum and the tail.
Be on the lookout for signs of hypothermia in animals, which include uncontrollable shivering followed by abrupt stillness, decreased heart beat and weak pulse, stiff muscles, lack of coordination and pale or blue gums.
A shelter should be tall enough for a dog or cat to sit upright and large enough to be able to turn around. Any smaller enclosure will cramp them. Any larger will prevent them from retaining body heat. If the shelter is not conventionally insulated or does not have a heater, straw makes an excellent and inexpensive insulated bedding. It retains heat and evaporates moisture.
Do not use fabric blankets or bedding. Once wet, it will ice over when the temperature drops at night, becoming wet again with your animal’s body heat.
Another tip is to orient the shelter’s entrance to face south to southeast to help protect the interior from wind, rain and snow and maximize solar gain. If the opening is uncovered, consider attaching a thick piece of rubber, doormat, or carpet scrap, cut to size to block the wind, rain and snow. Make sure the shelter is as airtight as possible. The shelter should be elevated a few inches off the ground so it doesn’t become waterlogged from rain and snow that accumulate.
If New Mexico citizens observe animals being left outside in cold weather, winter conditions, please contact either the APNM Animal Cruelty Hotline at (505) 265-2322, ext. 29, or the Attorney General’s Animal Cruelty Task Force Hotline at (505) 506-4000.