DENVER - December 3, 2013
One of the advantages of working for 7News is that I get lots of detailed information about weather, which can be crazy here in Colorado. Like this week: yesterday was in the 50s, but the rest of the week is gonna be COLD. Here’s what our crack weather team (Lisa Hildago and Dayle Cedars) is saying this morning:
“Here comes the POLAR EXPRESS! A strong cold front will race southward from Canada within the next 12 hours and usher in some of the coldest air Colorado has seen in about three years! It will also be the longest cold spell since the late 90s.
The core of the cold is anchored right over the North Pole and will send temperatures tumbling in the days and nights to come. It is likely that Denver and most of eastern Colorado will struggle to reach 10 degrees Wednesday through Friday, with subzero readings at night.”
SUBZERO! Dog, that’s COLD.
Here’s the bad news: Marianne says she’s going to make me wear the dreaded booties outside. “It’s simply going to be too cold for you without them,” she told me firmly. BOTHER. I am not fond of the booties – they feel weird. But, I suppose that’s better than frozen tootsies.
The good news, of course, is that I have booties plus a nice, warm house with lots of cozy dog beds and blankets and people who know how to keep us dogs and cats comfy and safe.
But it occurred to me that some people may not realize how important it is to take special precautions for their animals when it gets this nippy. I asked my friend Chris Gallegos at the Dumb Friends League for some tips. Here’s what he sent to me (with my comments afterwards):
• Make sure all pets have a warm place to sleep in the house, off the floor and away from drafts. Kittens and older cats will appreciate a heated pad or bed (readily available at pet supply stores). (Oh, Dog – don’t tell our kitties about heated pet beds – or Meryl either!)
• Don’t leave tiny, short-haired, or very young or old dogs outside without supervision. Warm sweaters or doggy coats will keep them comfortable on walks. Long-haired, larger dogs and those with double coats (like the Nordic breeds) may enjoy the cold and snow, but they, too, should live primarily indoors with the family. (And remember their feet are unprotected, so you should put booties on your pups when you walk them!)
• Dogs that spend time outdoors need plenty of fresh water available. They can’t burn calories without water, and if they can’t burn calories, they can’t keep warm. Also, use a tip-resistant, ceramic or hard plastic water bowl rather than a metal one; when the temperature is low, a dog’s tongue can stick and freeze to metal. (YIKES. Just - YIKES.)
• Keep your dog’s coat well groomed. Matted fur won’t protect her from the cold. (Plus, it feels good to be brushed!)
• After a walk, wipe her feet, legs and stomach area to prevent ingestion of salt or dangerous chemicals. For your own walkways, use a pet-friendly ice-melt product. (Yeah, that regular ice melt stuff is poisonous and sometimes it burns our feet! Again, booties help.)
• Never let dogs off leash on snow or ice, especially during a snowstorm. Make sure they are always wearing ID tags and are microchipped for an extra measure of protection. (What is your dog doing without tags and a chip in any weather?!)
• Check your garage and driveway for antifreeze and other chemicals. Antifreeze is a deadly poison, but it has a sweet taste that attracts animals. Wipe up any spills right away. Better yet, use pet-safe antifreeze, which is made with propylene glycol. If ingested in small amounts, it will not hurt pets, wildlife or your family. (Antifreeze is a particular favorite of cats for some reason, so make sure they can’t lick it off the garage floor!)
• Never leave a pet alone in a car during cold weather. A car can act as a refrigerator, holding in the cold and causing the animal to freeze to death. (Spot would rather be home, trust me. Plus, he might get stolen! We get a reports of stolen dogs all the time – it’s scary.)
• If there are outdoor cats in your area, bang loudly on your car hood or honk the horn before starting the engine. In their search to stay warm, outdoor cats often take refuge next to a warm car engine or tire. (If you have feral cats in your neighborhood you can build inexpensive shelters for them. Check out this link: http://tinyurl.com/pb8wbef)
• Keep snow from piling up high next to your fence. A packed snowdrift will provide a boost for dogs to escape the confines of your yard. (Not that I would ever do this, but I know Meryl might accidentally climb over the fence if she saw a dog in the next yard. Or a friendly person. She’s social, our Meryl.)
• Consider the amount of exercise your dogs receive during colder weather, and adjust their food supply accordingly. Inside and lazy? Less food. Outside and active? More food may be needed to produce more body heat. Consult your veterinarian to be sure. (If you have to feed less dog food, you can add half a can of salt-free green beans, a couple of baby carrots or a spoonful of plain pumpkin for low-calorie filler and extra fiber.)
Well, I hope this information is helpful. Stay warm, everybody!
Chow for now!
Looking for a fun gift for the dog lover on your list? You can order a copy of "Let the Dogs Speak! Puppies in Training Tell the Story of Canine Companions for Independence" by Marianne McKiernan in paperback or eBook format at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Your local independent bookstore can order the paperback for you as well. All author's royalties are donated to CCI. HO. HO. HO.