Stay warm

STAY WARM: The Humane Society of Otter Tail County has some winter tips for protecting the dogs and cats whose lives depend on us, including cleaning paws of road salt and ensuring they are safe from the cold. 

When it comes to Minnesota weather, a general rule of thumb to follow is: if the outdoor temperature is too cold or too hot for a human to be comfortable, it’s too severe for your four-footed family members, too. If it is necessary to leave your dog or cat in the outdoor elements for more than “potty breaks,” please be sure they have a warm, insulated, airtight shelter that is large enough for them to move around in but small enough for them to retain body heat. It must be raised several inches off the ground and be equipped with a thick layer of cedar shavings or straw that should be replenished often during the winter months. Never use blankets, beds or towels as they will absorb moisture from the air and will actually make the animal colder and even cause them to freeze to death. When filled with straw, an inexpensive insulated foam cooler is an easy way to provide a warm bed. Install a secure flap, using burlap or heavy plastic, over the door of the shelter.

Pets who need to spend a lot of time outdoors also need more food/caloric intake in the winter because keeping warm depletes energy. Routinely check your pet’s water dish to make certain the water is fresh and unfrozen. Use plastic food and water bowls as your pet’s tongue can stick and freeze to metal. Studies show that enduring long, dark, cold days can greatly shorten the lifespan of any dog or cat so if you recognize behavioral changes or any signs of frostbite or hypothermia, seek veterinary attention immediately. Above all, please remember that dogs are social animals; you are their family and they want to be with you.

Also remember that road salt found on walkways in the winter can cause paw irritation and be dangerous to dogs if ingested. Wipe paws off after walking them near any type of salt chemicals, before they are able to ingest it. Pets depend on their owners being smart and responsible.. If passers by find a pet left in the cold, they can politely let the owner know of their concern. Some people genuinely don’t know the risk that cold weather poses to their pets or livestock and will be quick to correct any problems addressed. If these concerns are responded to poorly or continue to present themselves, reports of the neglect can be made to local law enforcement agency.

Additional questions about animal housing requirements can be found in MN Statute 343.40 Subd 2 or by calling the Humane Society of Otter Tail County at 218-739-3494.

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