BILLINGS — It’s hard to believe that only about two weeks ago, we were sitting in the 70s and 80s. But as we get ready for the first winter storm of the season, it’s getting colder for pets.
The Yellowstone Valley Animal Shelter knows a thing or two about pets and winter. Tiffany Smith, the outreach coordinator at the shelter, says dogs and cats feel the cold, just like we do.
“The same rules kind of apply for both dogs and cats,” said Smith. “A lot of people think that just because animals have fur, they're going to be okay in the colder weather... which is true to an extent, but just like humans, animals have different degrees of cold tolerance. Just because they have fur they're still susceptible to things like hypothermia and frostbite. Some dogs like Huskies with their big fluffy fur, they may be a little bit better to be outside than say a chihuahua with their short fur, short legs.”
Getting outside is still important for pets during the winter, especially if they have to do their business, but you want to be careful with rock salt.
“Salt is used a lot on sidewalks for ice,” said Smith. “There are pet-safe brands. So we always recommend checking with your hardware stores to make sure you're getting that brand...but you know when you're out walking your dog or if your cat's out exploring. You don't know what they're coming in contact with, so you know every day when you bring them inside from their walk, be sure to wipe down their paws with a damp cloth. Also, be sure to dry them off really well.”
She added that some dogs and cats have fur between their paws, so always check to make sure there is no ice clinging to them when they come inside and make sure that the pads of their paws are not cracking from the cold.
Store-bought items like pet jackets and booties can help protect animals while they are outside, but the best thing for most pets is to be kept inside, where they can be fed, watered and warm.
Remember, outdoor animals are going to be looking for shelter from the cold these next few months. It is not uncommon for cats and other small animals to hide in the engine blocks of cars for warmth, so tapping on the hood before starting the car is a good idea.