WI Humane Soc., HAWS offer tips on keeping pets safe in cold

WAUKESHA/MILWAUKEE (WITI) – Cold snaps aren’t just hard on humans; they can be hazardous for pets. HAWS, the Humane Animal Welfare Society of Waukesha County, along with the Wisconsin Humane Society in Milwaukee offer practical tips to ensure the entire family makes it through winter safely and happily.

Keep all pets indoors when the temperature dips, other than for short walks and potty breaks. Paw pads and ears are very sensitive and easily susceptible to frostbite in frigid temps. Wind-chill can threaten a pet's life, no matter what the temperature. Even dogs normally accustomed to arctic weather may not be ready for extreme temperatures.

HAWS has a limited number of dog crates available for loan to Waukesha County residents who don’t normally allow their pets inside the house or garage. Owners concerned about their ability to keep their companion pets safe during this weather are encouraged to call the shelter to discuss available alternatives – 262-542-8851.

Short-coated dogs may need a coat or sweater during walks. Baby socks or a coat of Vaseline can also help protect pets’ paws, which can crack in the bitter cold. Salt and other chemicals used to melt snow and ice on sidewalks and roadways can irritate the pads of your pet's feet: Always wipe paws with a damp towel after coming inside – even if you don't see salt on walkways.

Keeping warm depletes energy quickly, so more food is needed in winter for animals spending time outdoors. Outside water dishes should be checked the water has not frozen. Use plastic food and water bowls rather than metal so tongues don’t freeze to the bowl’s surface.

Antifreeze is a deadly poison with a sweet taste that attracts animals and children. Wipe up spills and store antifreeze out of reach. Coolants made with propylene glycol are now widely available; safe if ingested in small amounts.

Parked cars can attract small animals that may crawl under the hood looking for warmth. To avoid injuring any hidden animals, bang on your car's hood to scare them away before starting your engine.

Watch for signs of hypothermia in your pet: weak pulse, dilated pupils, decreased heart rate, extreme shivering, pale or blue mucous membranes, body temperature below 95 degrees, stupor and unconsciousness. Consequences of extreme hypothermia may include neurological problems including coma, heart problems and kidney failure. Contact your veterinarian for details.

The Wisconsin Humane Society offers the following tips:

If someone sees a dog left unattended outside, they should call local non-emergency police. If the animal is in distress or it’s obviously a life-threatening situation, they should call 911.

The Wisconsin Humane Society wants to remind all pet owners that if it’s too cold for you to be outside, it’s too cold for your pets.