By Doug Jimerson

Keeping your pets protected from weather extremes is important in a state like Iowa, especially if we have a brutally cold winter. When temperatures drop below freezing here are some tips for keeping your cats and dogs safe.

  1. Bring your pets indoors. The best way to keep your pets toasty on a cold day is to keep them inside. Don’t assume that your pet’s thick fur coat will keep it protected. Dogs and cats will appreciate a cozy couch or warm fire where they can curl up next to you when the weather turns frigid. Short-haired dogs such as dachshunds, pugs, and beagles are particularly vulnerable to freezing temperatures. Remember, if it’s too cold for you to be out, it’s too cold for your pets.
  2. Help outdoor pets. Sadly, not all dogs and cats are ever invited into our homes. Working and hunting dogs and farm cats are often left to their own devices to find shelter in barns, corn cribs, or garages. But, that’s no reason to ignore them.

If possible, install infra red heat lamps in a stall or garage corner where your outdoor kitties can warm up when needed. And, make sure they have plenty of blankets they can nestle into.

For dogs, consider a heating pad designed for outdoor use that fits right inside a standard doghouse. Most have a built in thermostat that will automatically turn on the heat as the temperatures drop. Use bales of hay or straw to surround and insulate your doghouse and install some type of windbreak to divert the flow of cold air.

And never forget, that outside pets need water. Buy one or more heated water bowls at your local pet or farm store and keep them filled all winter long.

  1. Watch out for paws. Keep a careful eye on your dog’s paws during the winter. Many cities and towns use either calcium chloride or sodium chloride to melt snow off roads and sidewalks during the winter. These chemicals can irritate a dog’s paws (and are also harmful to your pet if eaten) so always wipe your dog’s feet after coming back inside.

Or, you can train your dog to wear booties during the winter that will protect him from salt damage or ice balls building up between his toes.

Another method of protection is to rub some petroleum jelly into his paw pads before heading out for a walk. For your own yard, choose a specially formulated ice melt that’s safe for animals

  1. Increase food. Dogs and cats that are exposed to cold weather burn up extra calories to stay warm. So, it’s a good idea to feed your pet a bit more during the winter. Just keep an eye on their waistline so they don’t get too chubby.
  2. Hide antifreeze. Antifreeze for your car, boat or RV is highly toxic to both cats and dogs. And what’s worse, it has a slightly sweet taste that dogs and cats will quickly lap up. Always mop up any spilled antifreeze in your garage or driveway and consider using safer products that contain propylene glycol instead of ethylene glycol.