I recently was on a radio broadcast with Peaceful Planet Pets and one of the topics of discussion was the fact that folks were leaving their pets out while the Blizzard Draco came rolling through. At the end of 2013 winter season approached fast, were you prepared? Does your disaster plan include winter weather?
Using wolves as an excuse to leave dogs out in these types of weather conditions ignores the evolution between wild and domestic dogs. Wolves have adapted to these types of conditions but our domestic dogs have adapted to living with us.
I lived in Alaska for two years and really had to prepare for travel in subzero temperatures and part of my own preparations was a winter emergency kit available and it includes things like extra warm clothing, blankets, dry shoes, a candle, a lighter or water-proof matches, food that doesn’t freeze, access to water, emergency flares and the list goes on. Winter weather conditions can change on a dime, so plan your routes and stay alert to your weather reports, try to avoid the storms, and be flexible. Sliding off the road and into a ditch will not help you get there anywhere quickly.
How do you prepare for winter?
Either purchase or build your own car winter kit and become familiar with everything in it, items to include (not all inclusive):
- Have extra blankets, sleeping bags or space blankets in your care
- Extra warm clothing
- A Flashlight with extra batteries, there are flashlights available that will charge cell phones
- A first aid kit for your car
- Carry a knife, high calorie and non-perishable food, candles, water-proof matches, something to melt snow in for drinking water
- Sanitary items like baby wipes, tissues, paper towels, garbage bags
- Carry sand or cat litter for tire traction and a shovel to dig out with
- Tool kit should include tow ropes, windshield scrapers, and jumper cable
- A compass and roads maps, you may have to go another route
- Emergency flares
- A full tank of gas will keep ice from forming in the tank and fuel lines
- Keep someone information of your schedule and routes
- Winterize your vehicle before winter begins and this includes having good tread on tires, carry chains
- Build your kit to your needs
Before leaving home, pound the hood of your car before starting. Cats and other small animals may have climb in to seek warmth from the car.
Not all pets arctic breeds and can survive in harsh winter conditions. Dogs and cats can also get frost-bitten. When I lived in Alaska, my dogs were required to have covering for their feet because their paws could freeze to the ice, which could be painful for the dogs. Even then I knew of sled dog owners when it hit zero and below brought their sled dogs in to keep them warm over the winter. They could tell how cold it was by the number of dogs piled on the bed for warmth with their people.
If feral dogs and cats are in the area, encourage a temporary shelter so that they to can get out of the wind. I can only imagine what these animals are thinking as they try to survive in conditions that are harsh for them and how many of them really just want to be safe, warm and fed.
Other cold-weather tips:
- Know the signs of frostbite and hypothermia. This can include: violent shivering followed by listlessness, weak pulse, and lethargy. The parts of the body that is mostly exposed to the weather are more likely to get frostbite and includes ears, tails, and feet. The treatment for frostbite is to apply warm (not hot) water soaks to the frostbitten part for 20 minutes but do not rub or massage those areas. Most importantly seek medical attention.
- Winter ice melters can be harmful to your pet. Rock salt can damage your dog’s paws, and worse and they ingest all of that harmful salt by licking off their paws. Chemical ice melters are dangerous to and if you do need to use it, prevent the pets from walking on it. Encourage your clients to use the pet-friendly products that can melt ice without salt. Never assumed these products are safe if ingest. Don’t forget to wipe off paws as pets enter the home.
- Antifreeze is a deadly poison: Wipe up any spills, store antifreeze out of reach, and double check that your car doesn’t have a leak.
- Dogs and Cats love sleeping next to a warm fire. Screen off fireplaces so pets can’t get too close and risk being burned.
- Stock up on supplies. Winter weather can bring heavy snow or ice at happen anytime. Keep extra pet supplies on hand and encourage your clients to do the same for their pets.
- Keep an Emergency Kit. These can be tailored to your needs and the changing season. Include in the kits: emergency food, water, blankets, flashlights, first aid supplies, medications, a weather radio, and other supplies that you would need. Be prepared! Encourage your clients to maintain their own emergency kits and know where these kits are kept.
Emergencies happen and winter storms can bring power and water outages, fallen trees and massive limbs blocking roadways, even evacuation orders. Having emergency plans and kits in place will save time when in a crisis.
Be prepared for winter conditions. Please encourage pet parents to be prepared and to bring their animals in during the winter including their cats. If the pets are not able to come in provide appropriate shelter out of the wind that contains bedding for warmth and unfrozen and clean water for them to drink and food to eat.
Joyce Rheal is based in Southern Illinois and is a nationally certified pet care consultant, trainer, and the author of Preparing Your Pets for Emergencies and Disasters and Disaster Plans: Preparing Your Pets for Emergencies and Disasters.