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Protecting Your Furry Friends From Freezing Temperatures: Harris County Pets Director of Veterinary Services Lists Recommendations To Keep Animals Safe

By Edward Saenz and Indira Zaldivar

With the approaching freezing temperatures, it’s essential to remember that our furry companions need just as much protection from the cold as we do. 

While some pets, like huskies and malamutes, are well-adapted to cold weather, most require extra care to stay safe and comfortable during freezing temperatures.

Here are some tips recommended by Harris County Director of Veterinary Public Health Corey Steele in an exclusive interview with Que Onda Magazine, for protecting your pets and stray animals from the harsh effects of winter.

Bring your pet inside, if you can, and limit outdoor time. Even if your pet loves spending time outdoors, it’s crucial to limit their exposure to freezing temperatures. Short walks and potty breaks are sufficient, and playtime is best enjoyed indoors. Remember, a pet’s tolerance for cold weather is much shorter than ours.

“If you’re cold, your pets are cold too,” Steele said. “Even if they have fur, they still feel the temperature just like us. We encourage all pet owners to be able to keep their pets inside if they can.”

Ensure your pet has access to a warm, draft-free shelter. For outdoor pets, a well-insulated doghouse with dry bedding like straw is essential. Contrary to popular belief, towels and blankets outdoors are not ideal as they can trap moisture and worsen conditions for dogs. 

Bring your pets in at night, and provide them with cozy beds or blankets in comfortable spots.

A little known fact is that, like humans, pets burn more calories in cold weather to stay warm. Increase their food intake slightly during winter, offering them high-quality food to provide the energy they need.

For outdoor dogs, Texans are required by law to follow certain precautions to protect dogs per the Safe Outdoor Dog Act.

SODA “ protects dogs not just from cold weather, but in general from being tethered outdoors in inhumane conditions,” Steele said. 

“When it is cold outside, that is an inhumane condition.”

SODA mandates Texans to provide suitable shelter, described as a construction enabling the dog to stand, turn around, and lie down comfortably. Adverse weather conditions are specifically outlined as encompassing rain, hail, sleet, snow, high winds, and extreme temperatures. 

The tether’s length must be a minimum of 10 feet or five times the dog’s size, and the collar or harness must be appropriately fitted to avoid harm.SODA also forbids the utilization of substantial chain restraints and mandates provisions for drinking water and safeguards against extreme temperatures

If your pets are going to spend any time outside, watch for signs of hypothermia. These can include shivering, whining, lethargy, pale gums, and weakness. If you notice any of these signs, bring your pet inside immediately and seek veterinary attention.

Lastly, ensure your pet has access to fresh, unfrozen water throughout the day. Use heated water bowls or replace water frequently to prevent freezing.

Steele also recommends that people check under their vehicles or honk the horn before starting up the engine as stray animals may be hiding inside for warmth. 

“During these times [animals] are trying to find that shelter. Especially cats, cats like to get up inside the engines and try to find that warm space, and out of the elements.”

“Always assume that there is an animal in there. Honk the horn a couple of times, maybe tap the top of the hood a few times, just to try to ensure that there’s nothing hiding out in there.”

“And dogs too. Dogs like to get underneath. It might be right behind the wheels, and just kind of take a peek and and make sure.”

Taskforce partners at Harris County Constable Precinct 5, Houston Police Department, Houston BARC, Houston Humane Society, and Harris County Pets  will be on call and available to check on any pets left outside in dangerous conditions throughout this winter weather situation.

“We have officers going out continually monitoring,” Steele said. “Citations can be issued, but also if the circumstances are very extreme, we can remove the animal as well.”

If you see a pet restrained outside without shelter for an extended period in extreme weather, please report it immediately at 832-927-PAWS or www.927PAWS.org.

By following these tips, you can help furry friends stay safe and comfortable during the winter months. Remember, with a little extra care and attention, you can ensure your pets enjoy a happy and healthy winter season.