Humane Society Offers Tips for Keeping Pets Warm

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COLUMBIA - Pets can be especially vulnerable to winter weather, according to Rock Bridge Animal Hospital veterinarian Wendy Forbes.

Some dangers include dehydration as well as overfeeding or undernourishment.

Mary Pat Boatfield, the executive director for the Central Missouri Humane Society said the cold weather can bring about an increase in pet neglect cases.

"Columbia and Boone County Animal Control responds to animals that don't have appropriate shelter, or appropriate care during the winter months. Definitely winter brings on more complaints for lack of caring for your pet."

Boatfield said adoptions tend to taper off this time of year, but relinquishment and intake rates remain the same which she said can mean the humane society is very full. This season, they've had to take more extreme measures than usual to encourage adoptions by providing lower adoption fees than ever before.

Boatfield said it is important to make sure all animals are taken care of during the winter months.

Here are some tips from Forbes and Boatfield to keep furry friends safe from the cold:

- Make sure outdoor pets have adequate shelter.

"It needs to be big enough that they can move around comfortably, but not so big that they lose a lot of body heat," said Forbes. "If it gets really cold, pet owners might consider adding a heating pad that is approved for outdoor use." 

- Make sure outdoor animals have access to water. During freezing temperatures it's important to change the water frequently. Forbes suggests putting warm water outside so it won't freeze as quickly. Pets can become dehydrated quickly without a reliable water source.

- Be careful of de-icing solutions on the sidewalks, and try to wipe it off your pets when they come indoors. Forbes said that if pets lick the solution off their paws it could make them sick.

- Be mindful of winter feeding. Boatfield said pets who spend a lot of time outside in the cold will need more protein in their diets than usual to stay nourished. On the flip side, Forbes warns that indoor pets who might get less exercise than usual during the winter months do not need to consume quite as much food because it makes it easier for them to "pack on the pounds."

- Ensure that pets have ID tags and are micro-chipped. Boatfield warned winter storms can make it can be more difficult than usual for pets to find their way back home.

- Dogs with short coats or that have their chests lower to the ground can benefit from winter coats or sweaters. Forbes said some of these breeds include Dachshunds, Chihuahuas, Boxers and Weimaraners.

- Try to make a habit of tapping on the hood of your car before you start it on cold mornings. Boatfield said cats often climb into car engines or fan belts to stay warm. Forbes said she has seen many cats come into Rock Bridge Animal Hospital with burns and injuries from seeking shelter in car engines. 

Boatfield said that during especially cold weather it can be a good idea to leave freshwater outside for wildlife and neighborhood pets as well. She said she hopes all pets can have a safe, comfortable home for this holiday season.