Companion animals like dogs and cats need protection from inclement weather, just as their human owners do. Like people, they need to be kept warm and cozy when the winds blow and the snow starts to fall.
Winter is a time when the staff of the Lawrence Humane Society, 1805 E. 19th St., works to educate people about the needs of their pets. Owners who lack good information could put their animals at risk during the cold-weather months.
"I would guess we get two to three calls a day from neighbors or concerned citizens worried because a pet doesn't have warm shelter," said Stacy Hoobler, the humane society's operations manager.
She offered some advice for keeping pets comfortable and safe during the winter.
"If you have an outdoor dog, you need to have a doghouse and you should insulate it with straw," she said. "Anytime the weather gets below freezing, bring dogs in at night. Their ears, noses and the pads of their feet are exposed and can get frostbitten."
A shelter such as a doghouse should get pets up off the bare ground, and the insulation offered by straw helps maintain their body temperature.
It's a good idea to purchase a water-dish warmer that will keep a bowl of water placed outside from freezing. Pet owners without warmers should go out and break the ice that forms in the dish and replenish the water frequently.
"For a pet, licking the ice isn't comparable to licking water. It won't quench their thirst," Hoobler said.
Cats, meanwhile, shouldn't be left outdoors in winter. Their fur isn't thick enough to sustain them in extended cold weather, she cautioned.
Some cats left outside will seek a warm, protected place under the hood of a car. So it's important for drivers to bang on their car hood to shoo them out before starting the engine, Hoobler said.
Another big risk to pets during winter is antifreeze. This is a time of year when cars are prone to stall and people are refilling their antifreeze. It's a highly poisonous fluid; even a tiny amount can kill a pet.
"Animals like it because it tastes sweet. So if you're adding antifreeze to your car, be sure to clean it up," Hoobler said.
People who jog with their dog should remember that the salt spread on streets and sidewalks to melt ice can be irritating to an animal's paws. So be sure to wash the dog's feet after a run or walk.
Keep in mind that cold weather is harder on older pets with stiff joints, just as it is on elderly people. Pets with arthritis should be kept indoors during the winter.
Part of the reason some pets aren't properly looked after in winter is that their owners don't understand the precautions they need to take.
"A lot of people think, 'My dog's a (Siberian) husky; he's meant to be outside,'" Hoobler said. "Well, pets still need some care."