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    Animal Care Society’s Tips for Keeping Louisville Pets Safe in Frigid Temps
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    With below freezing temperatures forecast in Louisville for the next few days and snow piling up wherever you look, making sure your pets stay safe can be challenging. Most of them, after all, need to go outside a few times a day. Virginia Hottinger, The Animal Care Society’s Fundraising & Events Coordinator, shares a wealth of tips and ideas for making sure your animals, as well as your neighbors’ animals, avoid dangerous conditions and injury.

    First, the basics for animal care in severe winter weather:

    1. If you have outdoor pets, bring them inside!!!! Hypothermia and frostbite are dangerous and life-threatening. If it's too cold for you, it's too cold for them!
    2. Bang on the hood of your car before you start it. Cats will climb inside your car to stay warm, so it's important to give them a chance to escape before you start the engine.
    3. Clean off your pets’ feet after they go outside where there is salt or de-icer. Salt can get stuck between their toes, which can cause burns. Pets will also try to lick it off of their feet and it will make them sick.
    4. When your dogs do go outside to potty, if you use a sweater (recommended), make sure you take it off and dry it once you bring them inside. Leaving wet clothing on will make them colder.
    5. If your dog doesn't go out to a fenced-in yard to potty, make sure you keep them on a leash. Dogs can easily get lost when off-leash during snowstorms and will be unable to find their way back.
    6. Never leave your pet alone in the car during cold weather. Your car will act as a refrigerator and your pet can quickly freeze to death.

    If you simply cannot provide indoor arrangements for your animal(s), help is available. You can take advantage of these resources in Louisville:

    “The Kentucky Humane Society Fern Creek Pet Resort is offering free boarding to outdoor pets in need during this extreme weather. In the past, other boarding facilities and even veterinary offices that have boarding space have offered free or reduced price boarding to those in need. It never hurts to ask. You may also have a friend or coworker who has a garage or utility room where your pet can stay. Put your pride aside and ask. What's important is that your pet is safe. It never hurts to ask, but it does hurt your pet to stay out in the cold.”

    If you see an animal that seems to have been left outdoors for an extended period of time, you can take steps to make sure they are not in danger.

    “If you see an animal that seems to have been left outdoors for an extended period of time and you are worried for its safety, you may call Metro Animal Services’ dispatch number (363-6609) to report that animal. If you have feral cats in your neighborhood that are not approachable, consider setting up an inexpensive shelter for them. You can build a simple one out of a Rubbermaid container, some Styrofoam, and some straw. If you have a neighbor who has an outdoor pet, consider talking to them and offering to help them call some boarding facilities so they know what options they have. If you approach them in a non-judgmental and helpful way, you have a better chance of them cooperating. Educating people about the dangers of cold weather is important, but try not to make the person feel attacked and judged. Most people are more open to suggestions if you approach them in a calm manner and offer to help them make sure their pet is safe.”

    If your pet refuses to go out in the cold, you may have to make temporary adjustments to his or her routine. Here are a few ideas:

    “Puppies and senior dogs are especially sensitive to the cold weather. Using puppy pads or newspaper as an alternative to going outdoors is a good idea-- if your dog will use them. Making sure you clear a path for them to go outside to potty is also a good idea. If your dog has short legs, unless you scrape away some of the snow from your back porch, they will not want to crawl through it. If you usually only open the door to let your dog out into a fenced-in yard, but now they stand at the open door and don't budge, put on your boots and your coat and try going out with them. Bring a treat or two to encourage them and they'll be more likely to venture out with you. I use this trick on my Great Dane, Bailey, sometimes, and it works. My other dog, Chopper, a senior Chihuahua, will not go out in the snow and also won't use puppy pads because he likes to lift his leg. He is stubborn! I have learned that he will pee on one of Bailey's toys if he really needs to go, though, so I just make sure to leave one of her old toys on a puppy pad and voila! Suddenly, he will use a puppy pad. It's not the best option, because I have to clean her toys more often, but it works when the weather is like this. Just pay attention to what your dog does and try to work with them. If they refuse to go outside and nothing else seems to work, confine them to only one part of your home, preferably an area with a hard surface floor. At least then, you'll have a smaller area to clean!”

    When your pets need to go out and it is extremely cold, you may wonder how long it is safe to have them outside, under supervision:

    “This will vary depending on your pet’s age, how thick and how long their fur is, whether they wear a jacket or sweater when outside, how big they are, and their personality. Cats are extremely sensitive to the cold, so if you have an indoor/outdoor cat, please keep them inside if possible during frigid temperatures. For dogs, many will let you know when they're ready to come back in. It usually only takes a few minutes (or less) to go potty. If your dog loves the snow and is running around and playing, just keep an eye on them and let them in when you see fit. If they stop playing, are shivering, or are acting tired, then bring them in. Usually a play session of 10 minutes is enough. If your dog wants out for more, give them a break inside where it's warm and then let them out again after a bit. Make sure your pet is hydrated and has a warm place to warm back up once they come inside.”


    The Animal Care Society is a private, no-kill adoption agency in Louisville whose purpose is to find new, safe, and loving homes for adoptable dogs and cats. Follow The Animal Care Society on Facebook.

    Photo: Shutterstock Copyright: fineart1

    Kachina Shaw's picture

    About Kachina Shaw

    A transplanted Hawkeye, I've now lived in Louisville longer than any other city. Can't live without: my husband and fur babies, coal-black coffee, peanut M&Ms, sunflowers, monthly vacations, books, walking paths, massage and a big purse.

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