North Dakota often has unpredictable weather, not to mention, harsh winters. Exposure to the winter elements can be detrimental to our furry friends. Winter produces dry, cold air and chilly rain, sleet and snow that can cause chapped paws and itchy, flaking skin, but these aren’t the only discomforts pets can suffer. Winter walks can become downright dangerous if precautions for our animals are not taken seriously.
Repeatedly coming out of the cold into the dry heat of your home can cause itchy, flaking skin. Keep your home humidified and towel dry your pet as soon as they come inside from the snow. Pay attention to the feet and in-between the toes, removing any snow balls from between the foot pads. Never shave your furry friend down to the skin in winter, as a longer coat will provide more warmth. To battle shedding, simply trim him to minimize the clinging ice balls, salt crystals and de-icing chemicals that can harm them. If your animal has short hair, consider getting them some winter sweaters to keep them warm. Massaging petroleum jelly or other paw protectors into the pads before going outside can help protect from salt and chemical agents. Consider using pet-friendly ice melts. If left outdoors, pets can freeze, become disoriented, lost, stolen, injured or killed. In addition, don’t leave pets alone in a car during cold weather, as cars can act as refrigerators that hold in the cold and cause animals to freeze to death. Remember, if it’s too cold for you, it’s probably too cold for your pet, so keep your animals inside.
Consider providing shelter to your outside animal and strays during the harsh winter temps. We don’t recommend keeping any pet outside for long periods of time, but if you are unable to keep your dog or cat inside during cold weather, provide them with a warm, solid shelter against those North Dakota winter winds. Make sure that they have unlimited access to fresh, non-frozen water (by changing the water frequently or using a pet-safe, heated water bowl). The floor of the shelter should be off of the ground (to minimize heat loss into the ground) and the bedding should be thick, dry and changed regularly to provide a warm, dry environment. The door to the shelter should be positioned away from prevailing winds. Space heaters and heat lamps should be avoided because of the risk of burns or fire. Heated pet mats should also be used with caution because they are still capable of causing burns. There are many online resources that are available to help you make the proper shelter for your animal and even the neighborhood strays. Visit Neighborhood Cats for more information like DIY, blue prints, and photos.
If you’d like more information on how to care for outdoor cats and dogs also visit: Humane Society of the United States/feral cat winter tips.