Monday, January 17, 2011

Cold Weather Alert: Keep Your Pets Inside!

As it's chilly outside today, the Ottawa Humane Society (OHS) reminds pet owners that plunging temperatures can be dangerous and even life-threatening for pets. While the OHS strongly recommends that you bring your dog inside in extreme temperatures, owners of outside dogs need to be especially vigilant about providing appropriate care on days like this.

"As long as the weather remains bitterly cold, we'll have zero tolerance for dogs that are found outside without appropriate shelter," says Miriam Smith, an OSPCA inspector for the OHS. "If we find a dog outside under intolerable conditions and we can't locate an owner, there's a good chance that dog will be removed for its own safety."

Dogs that live outside require as a minimum a doghouse soundly built of weatherproof materials facing away from prevailing winds. It should be elevated and insulated, with a door flap and bedding of straw or wood shavings. Animals who are outside need a constant source of fresh water, so check your dog's bowl often to ensure it hasn't frozen.

Keep your animals away from ice-covered bodies of water-even small ponds you think may be frozen over. Although many surfaces may appear solid, ice is often uneven and thin in places, and your pet may fall in and possibly suffer hypothermia or even death.

It's best to limit the amount of outdoor time for any animal in frigid temperatures, so take your dog for lots of quick short walks instead of one long one. Consider a sweater for your pet on cold days when you go out, especially if your dog is very young or old, or is sick or short-coated. Be sure to wipe down his paws each time you return home to remove chemicals or salt often used to melt ice and snow. These can be poisonous if ingested and can irritate sensitive feet.

Cat owners also have to be careful in winter. Cats are especially susceptible to the cold and don't have the body mass to keep warm in cold temperatures. If your cat does go outdoors, make sure it's only for short periods, and ensure your cat is inside overnight.

Remember never to leave an animal in an unheated car for long periods of time, and be sure to knock on the car hood each time you start the engine to scare any cats away. Cats often crawl under car hoods to find warmth and can be injured or killed by a starting motor.

If you see an animal in distress or without adequate shelter from the cold, call the OHS Emergency Unit at 613-725-1532.

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