It is that time of year again. Temperatures are dropping, everyone is getting warm coats out to wear, and the heat in your home has been turned on.

It is getting colder, and we are reminded that winter is just around the corner. So let’s talk about cold weather and your pets.

The best scenario, of course, is that your pet lives inside your home with you. However, you should still prepare for leashed walks with your pets. Smaller animals or those with short hair are more affected by lower temperatures.

Sweaters or coats will help your pet enjoy their walk with you much more on a cold, brisk day. When there is snow on the ground, you may also think about covering your pet’s paws to prevent frostbite and help keep their paws warm and dry. Keep your walks short and be mindful of the temperature.

Pets that live outside must have an appropriately sized shelter for their body heat to be maintained inside the structure. You should refrain from putting blankets inside their shelter because if they become wet, it will do more harm than good for your pet.

Instead, fill the shelter with fine pine shavings to help keep your pet warm. Replenish the shavings when needed. Do not use cedar shavings as this may cause skin irritation or upper respiratory issues for your pet.

Also you need to check your pet’s water bowl often when temperatures are 32 degrees or lower. The frozen water will need to be replaced. When temperatures fall below 32 degrees, it is best to bring your pets inside, whether it is your garage or basement, or perhaps an extra room in your house. When their body temperature drops, an animal can freeze to death quite quickly.

Especially if you have senior pets living outside, be diligent and bring them inside when temps fall to 32 degrees or below. Also, a nursing mother or puppies or kittens should never be outside in cold weather.

You can provide your pet with a heated dog or cat shelter if you do not have a basement, garage or extra room in the house. Many online sites have these shelters available at reasonable prices.

Remember, if you are cold, then so is your pet. It is a myth that animals with thick fur can withstand freezing weather. They cannot, and you should always take precautions for any pet you have.

If you cannot properly provide a warm shelter for you pets, or cannot bring them inside, contact local animal rescue organizations that can help with an appropriate shelter for your pet. Some will provide one at no cost to you to ensure the pet’s safety.

Also in cold weather, report any animal that you see outside that does not have proper shelter to Burke County Animal Control or to a local animal rescue organization so that animals in jeopardy can be helped.

Be a responsible pet owner. Be prepared this winter so your pets will be safe and warm and happy.

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Gwen Hood is president of A Better Life Animal Rescue.

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