AUBURN, Alabama—Most Alabama residents are not accustomed to blustering winds and icy weather. Preparations for a winter storm include stocking the pantry and winterizing vehicles, but don’t forget provisions for the four-legged members of the family. As wintery weather moves into the state, preparing a warm, dry shelter for pets should be a priority.
Robert Spencer, an Alabama Extension animal science and forages specialist, has tips on winter safety for outdoor pets.
An animal’s furry coat is not always sufficient to keep a pet healthy and safe during cold winter months. Some animals are naturally more suited for cold winter months, but many aren’t. According to Spencer, the ability for an animal to survive in below freezing temperatures depends on its coat. Animals without a substantial coat may need to come inside at night.
The best way to keep outdoor animals safe in the winter is to keep them indoors, but if that isn’t an option, find ways to keep your furry friends safe from the harsh winter weather.
Depending on your situation, it may take some time to create a safe place for your pet. Spencer says if purchasing a shelter or building one is not a viable option, consider types of available outbuildings that offer modest protection from cold temperatures and precipitation. Lay out a bed of straw or hay for some insulation so the animal’s body temperature is not compromised by the cold ground.
Another option is to keep your pet inside a garage. If it gets below freezing outside, lay out some blankets or towels for your pet to snuggle in. Their body heat will absorb into the cold concrete floor. Be aware that animals love being around warmth. Make sure your pet isn’t anywhere under or near your vehicle when you start it to leave the garage.
Animals expend more energy in the winter months by trying to keep warm, which means they need more food and water. If you have a problem with food and water freezing, try using plastic bowls instead of metal. Make sure drinking water does not remain frozen for more than a few hours.
When it rains or snows your fur family member loses all of the insulating, life-saving power from its coat. Immediately dry your pet and keep it in a safe, warm environment until dry.
“Be aware of antifreeze or other toxic chemical spills, some have a sweet taste and can be appealing to pets, but are very toxic,” said Spencer.
The bottom line is to use common sense. Always provide them with necessary warmth. Take time to ensure their comfort and overall well-being during cold weather.
The Alabama Cooperative Extension System has an iBook to help families, businesses and communities prepare for storms and clean up after they pass. The Emergency Handbook is a comprehensive resource for emergency planning, preparation and storm recovery. It is available as a free download from iBooks.