COLUMN: Cold weather and pets

Animal neglect and cruelty is heartbreaking to witness at any time of year, but as temperatures drop and winter’s wrath draws near...

Lorie Chortyk

Animal neglect and cruelty is heartbreaking to witness at any time of year, but as temperatures drop and winter’s wrath draws near, it is particularly distressing for SPCA constables to find so many animals left outdoors in freezing temperatures, with little or no protection from the elements.

While the SPCA responds to countless cases where animals are in serious distress after being deliberately neglected outdoors, even well-loved family pets can become sick or injured in harsh weather.

Here are some simple tips to keep your pet healthy and happy this winter:

– Antifreeze can be a deadly winter hazard for pets, who find the taste appealing. Ethylene glycol antifreeze is extremely toxic to pets and wildlife – a mere tablespoon is enough to kill a cat or small dog. Ensure you are using pet-safe, propylene-based antifreeze, which you will find at automotive supply stores if you’re adding it yourself, or you can ask your mechanic for it if you’re having your vehicle professionally winterized.

– Road salt is toxic if ingested and can also irritate dogs’ paws. When outside with your dog, pay special attention to where he’s walking and ensure you wipe his paws thoroughly after walks and play to remove any salt.

The SPCA recommends using pet-friendly, non-corrosive de-icing compounds.

– Ice can also cut your dog’s paws – watch your dog closely for signs he may be injured during exercise, and check for cuts and sores after exercise.

– Cats and wild animals have been known to seek warmth inside the motor compartment of vehicles during winter. Make it a habit to thump the hood of your car before starting it to chase away any animals who may be hiding inside.

– The BC SPCA is strongly opposed to keeping pets outside, particularly in cold temperatures.

If you must leave your animal outside for short periods, ensure that he or she has an appropriate shelter that is elevated off the ground and insulated. It should also be regularly cleaned and cleared of any environmental debris.

The outdoor shelter should also be appropriate to the weight and coat of the animal; he or she must be able to sit, stand, lie down and turn around freely and easily.

– Your dog must also have access to potable water at all times so check regularly to ensure that the water in the dish is not frozen.

Visit spca.bc.ca for more information on winter safety tips.

Lorie Chortyk is the general manager of community relations for the BC SPCA.

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