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Your Opinion: Pets require extra care in winter

Your Opinion: Pets require extra care in winter

December 8th, 2011 by Jennifer Tergin, Jefferson City in News

Dear Editor:

I would like to remind pet owners of a few safety tips for the cold weather. Winter can be a dangerous time for outdoor pets. If you have room in your home, bring your pets inside. Most dogs have short hair and are not equipped to be outside in below freezing temperatures. Unless you have a Husky or an Alaskan Malamute the Missouri winters are too cold for outdoor dogs. Many will suffer from frost bite and hypothermia. If you are unable to bring them in the house make some space in the garage for them to sleep, out of the wind and weather.

When your dog is outside in the cold make sure that it has proper shelter. A dog house should be large enough for your dog to sit and lie down in, but small enough to keep in body heat. Always keep the doorway of the house faced away from the wind, and keep the house filled with straw. Never use blankets or fabrics, as they will absorb moisture and freeze. Straw is the best insulation for your dog's house, make sure there is plenty of it so they can nest in it. One bale of straw will cost $5 or less, and will be enough for the entire winter (you will have to refill the house occasionally).

Make sure your dog has plenty of food and fresh water. Outdoor pets should be fed extra, protein-rich food when it is cold to help insulate their bodies. And ice does not equal water! Make sure you supply your pet with fresh water several times a day, as it will freeze rapidly and no longer be drinkable. You can buy heated water dishes for about $15 at Orschlens or Tractor Supply, they work great, but must be plugged in. If left with no water dogs will suffer from dehydration within 24 hours, and can die in two to three days.

If you are not willing to take these steps to care for your pet, then you should find another home for it, or surrender it to your local animal shelter.

If you are not able to supply shelter, straw, food and water for your pet please contact your local Humane Society. They will help you, or direct you to someone who can help. This is the number for the Heart of Missouri Humane Society 573-761-3900; for medical emergencies do not call this number, contact you veterinarian.

If you see a dog in need please do something about it! Talk to the animal's owner or call your local authorities. Animals depend on us to take care of them, do not let them down!