Winter comes at the same time every year. It’s just that some years it comes with more ferocity than others…which brings us to this past week in southeast Nebraska. Winter roared in.

Last winter was more like fall. This season is another story. The weather outside is frightful, and it’s time to think about how we can protect our furry friends from the ravages of winter. Animal welfare organizations have some important tips on what to keep in mind through the next few months.

Different breeds have different needs. According to the Great Plains SPCA, short-coated, thin, elderly, or very young dogs get cold quicker and need to be monitored as to how long they are outside. Many dog owners think of sweaters as “cute”, but they also serve a useful purpose. Hypothermia and frostbite pose major risks to dogs in the winter, so remember…if it is too cold for you, it is probably too cold for your dog.

Purr-fect Pointers

Roaming cats may seek out shelter from the freezing temperatures. When you get into your vehicle, bang loudly on the hood or honk the horn before starting the car to alert the cat and give it a chance to escape.

If you and your canine companion enjoy a daily walk, think PAWS. According to the GPSPCA, your dog’s paws can pick up all kinds of toxic chemicals such as salt, antifreeze, or de-icers.

When you get home, it’s imperative that you wipe off Fido’s paws to prevent him from licking off the chemicals and becoming sick. It’s also important to remove ice chunks from between the toes of the paw pads. If you scatter ice de-icers on your sidewalks, be sure to purchase pet-safe de-icers for an extra level of safety.

And speaking of toxic chemicals…antifreeze is a major threat to your pet’s safety. The chemical smells and tastes sweet and is a real temptation to curious pets. However, the truth is that it is extremely poisonous and can cause serious illness or even death when ingested. Clean up any spills of antifreeze and keep it on shelves where dogs and cats cannot access it.

Winter Woes

Does your skin get dry and itchy this time of year? The same thing can happen to your pets. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, it’s important to keep your home humidified and to towel-dry your pet as soon as he comes indoors.

Bathe your pets as little as possible during cold spells. The ASPCA tells us that washing too often can remove essential oils and increase the chance of developing dry, flaky skin…just like with us humans. If, for some reason, bathing is a must, check with your vet to get the name of a moisturizing shampoo and/or rinse.

Does the colder weather make you want to eat more? Pets burn extra energy by trying to stay warm in the winter. Feeding your pet a little bit more during the cold weather months can provide much-needed calories. Also make sure your pet has plenty of water to drink to keep them well-hydrated and to keep the skin less dry.

Something you may not have considered is the danger of the heat sources in your home. According to the PetMd website, dogs and cats may seek out sources of heat where they can cuddle up or take a quick nap. However, they may not realize how hot they can be.

“Cats may try to curl up next to a radiator or jump up on a wood-burning stove. Owners should make sure these places are inaccessible to pets in the winter months.”

Winter has its hazards and downside, but with a little thought and planning, you and your pets can make it a fun, special time of the new year.

City Pet Licenses

Reminder…the beginning of a new year means it’s time to buy city pet licenses for your dogs and cats. If you live in the Beatrice city limits, you are required by law to purchase licenses for your feline and canine family members.

Licenses are good Jan. 1 through Dec. 31, 2018, and may be purchased at the Beatrice Animal Shelter and at the City Clerk’s office.

May the new year be paws-itively wonderful for you and your furry friends!

This column was written by Bette Anne Thaut, board member of the Beatrice Humane Society.