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Ask the experts

Winter hazards loom for dogs and cats


As the temperature drops, here are some reminders of how to keep your pets safe over the next few months.


Dogs should never be left outside for long periods of time in any weather, and winter is especially hazardous.

They run the risk of frostbite to their ears and feet.

Age and health issues have a huge impact on how well an animal can tolerate the cold and older or ill pets who have endured the cold in years past, may no longer be able to keep their body temperature up.

A dog's tongue can become stuck to a frozen metal bowl so use plastic water bowls. Make sure the water is fresh, not frozen. In extreme cold you will need to replace the frozen water numerous times throughout the day.


If you have your pet outdoors, watch for signs of hypothermia.

Besides shivering you will also see muscle stiffness, decreased respiratory rate and a lack of mental awareness. The only way to diagnose hypothermia is by taking the dog's temperature. A dog's normal body temperature is between 101 and 102 degrees. If it falls below 99 degrees hypothermia begins to develop and he needs to get warm.

Moderate to severe cases of hypothermia begin when the body temperature falls below 90 degrees and at that point the dog will need medical support in order to survive.

Cats and cars

Warm engines in parked cars are a favorite warming place for cats. But when the car is started, the cat is often injured or killed when the fan blade starts to spin. If he escapes injury from the fan blade, he may fall out of the engine when the car is driving and end up miles from home, lost and on his own.

If you have outdoor cats living near where you park your car, bang on hood to frighten them away or better yet open the hood and look to see if there is a cat inside your engine before you start the car.

Snow-melting chemicals

Salt and other compounds used to melt snow and ice can irritate the feet of both dogs and cats. It can make them ill if they consume the chemicals, which happens when they groom themselves.

After taking your pet for a walk, wipe their feet with a damp towel as soon as you get home.

If you like to take long hikes in the snow with your dog take extra precautions. Ice balls form between the pads of their feet and they can be quite painful. Trimming the hair on their feet will help.

Boots are available but few dogs will tolerate them.

Musher's wax can be applied to the dog's feet. It dries quickly and creates a protective barrier, shielding the feet against chemicals, ice, and cold.

Inside is best

The best protection from winter hazards is to keep your pets indoors with you. It is a fact dogs and cats living outside are more likely to have unnoticed injuries, tumors, dental problems and more.

When one must go outside to interact and pet their animal they simply don't follow through. The one suffering is the animal.

The happiest dogs are those that spend most of the time with their family but are taken out frequently for walks and exercise.

Dogs and cats are social animals. They crave human companionship and they deserve to be safe and warm indoors with you.

Tip of the week: Winter is a great time to take an obedience class. The mental stimulation that a dog receives when learning new behaviors will offset the lack of physical exercise he may not be getting because of bad weather! Bark questions to: Canine Companion, 11652 North - 825 West, Huntington, IN 46750 or email

Canine Companion conducts dog training classes in Fort Wayne, Huntington and surrounding communities and behavior consulting nationwide. Along with their combined 30 years experience and endorsement by national organizations, the lead trainers are graduates of Purdue University's DOGS! Program and have earned the title of Certified Pet Dog Trainer through the Association of Pet Dog Trainers.