In typical Calgary fashion, the city has already received its first heavy snowfalls, not uncommon for October. As the temperatures continue to drop, it is absolutely necessary to ensure your companion animals are prepared for the cold weather ahead this winter. Here are a few tidbits of advice.
1. Ensure your companion animals are not left outdoors for extended periods of time.
This may seem obvious, but be sure not to leave your dogs or cats outdoors unsupervised when the weather is cold. The thermometer may indicate it is a safe temperature for your beloved companions to frolic outside, but keep in mind the additional chill of the wind and other factors. Regardless of size, breed, length of hair, do not leave your pets outdoors for prolonged periods of time. If your animal really enjoys being outside even in the winter, ensure it has access to a draft free, insulated, protected shelter to protect it from the elements, facing away from the elements. If you witness a dog unprotected from the elements, or left outside in the winter cold or in a cold vehicle for a long period of time, do not hesitate to contact your local Humane Society and file a cruelty complaint. Your local shelter can also advise you with tips on adequate outdoor doghouses.
2. Protect your puppies’ paws
As the sidewalks get icier, many cities opt to treat them with salt in the wintertime. If your dog enjoys wintertime strolls, do try and protect its paws from salt and pebbles. Some pet owners prevent this exposure to salt by having their dogs wear boots outside. However, some animals are not comfortable walking this way, and if the boots do not have a proper sole, it can make an icy jaunt even trickier! Prevent this by applying a protective balm to your dog’s paws. Protective products like these should be available at any local pet store, and many can also be used as an emollient to moisturize your pup’s paws if they are already dry. Be sure also, to wipe your pet’s paws after it has been exposed to salt, so that they do not spread it to other parts of the body while scratching, or lick their paws.
3. Keep your animals well fed and hydrated!
When spending time outdoors in the winter, human bodies are often required to expend more energy in effort to keep warm. The same goes for your pets. You may notice your pet requires a little more to eat in the wintertime, especially after being exercised. Also make sure the water bowl is full, and fresh. If your animal has a water dish outdoors, check routinely to make sure it doesn’t freeze, and avoid using metals…think about how it would feel to get your tongue stuck to the jungle gym in the winter time as a kid!
4. Look out for stray animals that may need your help!
While the sad reality of stray animals is a concern regardless of season, winter is an especially difficult time for many strays. Around your neighborhood, you may see stray cats, dogs, and even domestic rabbits (check this helpful link to determine whether a bunny is domestic or cottontail). If you determine an animal is a stray, and you are able to approach it, check for identification in the form of a license of tattoo. No identification or trace of ownership? In this case, you are advised to bring the animal into an animal shelter or your nearest vet clinic. In Calgary, if you find a dog at large, the City of Calgary is required to pick it up from that location. Think you may want to give one of these animals a forever home if no owner steps forward? You are encouraged still to bring the animal in to your nearest clinic or shelter, and let them know you are interested in adopting. In many areas, colonies of feral cats are not uncommon- these are cats who are not very sociable, and prefer to survive outdoors on their own. Some cities will even have trap, neuter, and release programs through various shelters to ensure the feral cat population doesn’t spread. This article provides some great advice for simple cat shelters, if you’d like to provide these cats with temporary shelter from the elements.
The best way to ensure your companion animals are safe from the cold is to keep them close to you, and give them lots of love. Make sure your pet sees a vet for a check up for winter, and is up to date on its shots, as cold weather often makes one more vulnerable to illness. Look out for your neighborhood pets and strays as well, and make it a cozy winter for everyone!