COLUMN: Protect your pet from winter weather

As temperatures drop and winter’s wrath draws near, BC SPCA constables across the province are responding to more frequent calls ...

Paw Prints by Lorie Chortyk

As temperatures drop and winter’s wrath draws near, BC SPCA constables across the province are responding to more frequent calls about animals being 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.

* 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.

* 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 animals 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.

The outdoor shelter should also be appropriate to the weight and coat of the animal. It must be able to sit, stand, lie down and turn around freely. Your dog must have access to potable water at all times, so check regularly to ensure the water in the dish is not frozen.

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