Frankie's Furry Friends: Wintertime Care for Pets

By Frankie Michelle Dennison on January 03, 2018 from Frankie's Furry Friends via

We have been experiencing quite the cold temperatures here in Harrison County lately. With that comes calls of animals without shelter, or concerns about animals being outside. We want to share with you some of the laws regarding animals, as well as some winter tips. 
Laws in West Virginia are, in our opinion, somewhat lax. However, there are minimum requirements that every dog owner who keeps his or her animal outdoors must abide by. West Virginia State Code 61-8-19 is the code which speaks about Cruelty to Animals. The code for shelter and food/water requirements are stated in this code. If you read it - it is brief, but it also grants your law enforcement and humane officer discretion as to what they consider shelter. The code clearly states it must be a shelter that protects from the elements of weather.  This can mean a variety of things such as a barn, a dog house, and some people even believe that an area under a porch is considered shelter. The best thing to do if you see an animal with no shelter, no food or no fresh (unfrozen) water, is call your local police or humane officer at 304-592-1876 during normal business hours.  During evenings and weekends, call the non-emergency 911 number (304)626-4900.   Also, take pictures (if you can, and do NOT step on private property) and time/date stamp everything in case authorities would need that. Also, always ask for a call back so that you know it has been checked into. Also, if an animal is tethered/chained and cannot reach shelter, make sure to call about  that as well. 
All this talk about dogs - what about cats? Well, cats unfortunately aren't really covered by the laws because they are not taxable property. However, if you see stray/outdoor cats in your neighborhood, you can google stray cat houses on the internet. They are affordable and easy to make. Some require only a plastic tote and some insulation. But please remember that if you put it out at your house - and start feeding the cats - they will stay there and we hope if that happens, you get them spayed/neutered and vaccinated. 
As much as we wish all animals could come indoors, especially during these frigid cold temperatures, please remember that working dogs are made to wishstand these temperatures. Pyrnees, Huskies, and such, are made to survive in these conditions. With that being said, they still are required to have shelter, food and fresh water. 
So what else can you do for the animals that are still outside in these temperatures? How about speak to you neighbors? Tell them politely of your concerns and offer tips such as bringing animals into a garage or basement, at the very least.  If they refuse any tips or if you don't think they would care to listen, simply buy a bale of straw and leave on their doorstep with a note saying "I just wanted to add a little warmth to your dog/cat house." It is discrete and it's a small price to pay for a little peace of mind. Do not offer hay or blankets, as those materials don't withstand moisture and thus do not allow the animals to maintain body heat as the straw insulation does.
Younger and older animals, as well as those with short hair and short noses are more prone to issues with extreme temperatures. So please take extra precautions with these animals.
Now, for some other safety tips for pet owners:
  • Knock on your car hood when you go outside, before you start your car up. Why? Because cats will often crawl into a car to stay warm during winter. Once you start your car up, they may not survive. 
  • Fresh, not frozen, water is a necessity. If an animal doesn't have access to fresh water, it can cause dehydration, thus resulting in further internal temperature balance.
  • Buy pet-friendly rock salt. Some salts can cause chemical burns on the paw pads of our furry friends.  Make sure to rinse off your pets feet when you come in from outside to wash off any ice or salt. And keep a close eye on the paw pads for any redness or irritation. If you notice any kinds of burns or irritation, please take your pet to the vet for some medication to help relieve it.
  • Also beware of coolant/antifreeze on the ground. Cats especially are drawn to it, but dogs will take a lick as well. Vehicles can leave these puddles which can be lethal to our pets.
  • Avoid bathing your pets too often during the winter months as it can dry out their coat, which in turn can cause flaky, itchy skin. Also consider massaging a small amount of petroleum jelly on their paw pads once in a while to keep them moisturized.
  • Limit walks and playtime to 10-30 minutes (depending on your pet and your judgment). Hypothermia can set in within 20-30 minutes during these extreme cold temperatures. If you notice your dog trying to sit, or holding paws up, it is time to take them inside as they are starting  to feel frostbite.
  • Consider upping your pet's food intake, especially if they are outdoorsy and take winter walks. Animals expend more energy during winter months trying to keep their body temperatures raised.

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