When the temperature drops below freezing, pets should not be left outside for extended periods. Cats, short-coated dogs and puppies are particularly vulnerable in cold temperatures. Keep cats indoors and protect your dogs from frostbite or hypothermia by taking them outside for short periods during cold weather. Some dogs, especially short-coated breeds and puppies, may benefit from a dog sweater or coat as an extra layer of warmth.
Vehicles can also pose a danger to animals in the winter months. Animals should never be left alone in a vehicle during cold weather. Cars cool down quickly and don’t hold in body heat, which can lead to animals freezing to death.
Be aware of cats seeking warmth under vehicle hoods. When the vehicle motor is started, the cat can be injured or killed by the fan belt.
Make a point of knocking on the hood or sounding the horn before starting the engine, as this will warn away any cats who may be hiding in your vehicle.
While the Ontario SPCA strongly recommends keeping dogs indoors, pets that spend time outside for long periods require a draft-free doghouse built of weatherproof materials. The doghouse should be elevated and insulated, well bedded, and the door should face away from prevailing winds and have a flap. Shelters must be designed for the size of the dog to provide comfort and warmth. A shelter that is too small will prevent the dog from stretching out comfortably, whereas a shelter that is too large may not maintain enough body heat to keep the dog warm.
For instructions on how to build the perfect doghouse for your dog, see the Ontario SPCA and Humane Society’s Ideal Doghouse plans at ontariospca.ca/doghouse
Check your pet’s water frequently to ensure it’s not frozen and use a tip-resistant plastic or ceramic bowl. There are also heated and/or insulated bowls available that prevent water from freezing.
“If it’s too cold for you to go outside, it’s too cold for your pet. Winter’s chill affects animals, just like it affects people,” says Jennifer Bluhm, acting chief of animal protection, Ontario SPCA and Humane Society. “Exposure to harsh conditions can cause serious illness or death to animals, particularly during periods of freezing rain and rapid temperature fluctuations.”