Soon the leaves will begin to fall and the temperatures will be crisp and cool. Now is the time to prepare your outdoor animals for winter and the harsh temperatures that come with it. All outdoor animals will need some extra attention when the snow begins to fall.
Whether they are inside your home or inside their own, dogs and cats need protection from wet and cold. Most cats are short-haired and are unable to stay warm in freezing temperatures or when their fur gets wet. The same applies to short-haired dogs. Even when your cats and dogs go outside for a brief amount of time, their noses, ears and paws are at risk for frostbite.
An outdoor cat or dog needs a dry, elevated house with straw for warmth. The house should be air- and water-tight. A flap covering the opening will help keep drafts out. If the area around the animal's house gets muddy, spread straw around to soak up the excess water.
Try to get your cat to use the house. If they don't have a place to go, they might climb into your car engine compartment to keep warm. Lift the vehicle hood before starting the engine or make sure your cat is visible. A better solution would be to keep your cat safely indoors.
An outdoor animal will need more calories when it's cold to produce body heat. Talk to your veterinarian about an increase in the amount of food and what type of food your animals may need.
Outdoor animals also need fresh water daily. Make sure you remember to keep breaking the ice or use a heated dish. A thirsty pet will eat snow and run the risk of hypothermia and death.
On the flip side, indoor animals are more sedentary and will need fewer calories to avoid gaining weight. Avoid feeding your indoor animals table scraps. Too much fatty, rich or even new types of foods can cause your pet intestinal problems.
Although great for vehicles, antifreeze is deadly to all animals. It has an enticing sweet flavor, and just one or two drops can kill an animal. Wipe up any spilled antifreeze and throw away the rag or paper towel when you are done. Watch for radiator drainage spots in your driveway or garage and flush them immediately.
Chemicals that are used to melt snow and ice can irritate your pet's paws. Be sure to wipe their feet when they come back inside.
Dogs and cats are happiest and healthiest when kept indoors with the rest of the family. Keep them safe this winter by keeping them inside.
Horses need some extra care during the winter months, too. Make sure your horse has a clean, dry stall, barn or area they can go to stay out of the weather. A horse should have at least a three-sided shelter that is open on the downwind side. Moist bedding can cause foot problems as well as respiratory problems, so keep the area clean and dry.
Your horse is burning more energy so he will need more hay to eat. Horses' shoes should be pulled prior to the first snowfall because snow can ball up in the hooves and make it difficult for your horse to walk. Your horse also needs fresh water, so be sure to break the ice in his bucket to keep him happy and healthy.
Midge Grinstead is executive director of the Lawrence Humane Society. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.