WASHINGTON – The weather will soon dip the lowest temperature the region has seen in 20 years. And if the outdoor air is too chilly for you, it’s too cold for your pet, as well.
Despite fur coats and padded paws, dogs need protection from the elements just like their human companions.
Jenna Randall, a veterinarian with the Washington Animal Rescue League, says in extreme cold, a dog’s natural fur is not enough.
“It’s not OK for dogs to be outside for any prolonged period of time. Go outside to the bathroom and, if needed, do a short walk,” Randall says.
Pet clothes and accessories also come in handy during cold-weather stints. Coats and sweaters add an extra layer of warmth, and boots or rubber booties help to keep pets’ feet warm and free of painful patches of snow and ice.
If your dog does not use footwear, be sure to wipe off its paws when you get inside to get rid of chemicals that might have been used to melt ice.
If anyone is concerned about shelter for pets during freezing temperatures, the Fairfax County Animal Shelter is offering free, temporary emergency shelter.
Kristen Auerbach, director of communications at the shelter, says the facility would prefer a call before bringing pets in, so they can prepare. The number is 703-324-0208.
Give your pets plenty of water: A cool drink of water may be the last thing you think of after coming in from a walk in the freezing cold, but it’s important for pets to stay hydrated. The Humane Society recommends using a plastic bowl, rather than metal, to avoid your pet’s tongue sticking to the dish.
Help neighborhood outdoor cats: A wandering neighborhood outdoor cat may not have anywhere warm to go during winter. But it is easy to give them a hand with some extra water and a shelter or crate that can keep them safe from the elements.
Avoid antifreeze poisoning: The Humane Society says antifreeze has a sweet taste that may attract pets if spilled. It’s important to wipe up spills immediately and store the chemical out of reach, since it is a deadly poison.
Avoid salt: Salt used to treat roadways and sidewalks can irritate your pet’s paws. Be sure to wipe your pet’s paws with a damp towel to alleviate pain caused from salt.
And just like Randall, the Humane Society cautions against leaving pets outside for periods of time in cold weather.
“The happiest dogs are those who are taken out frequently for walks and exercise, but kept inside the rest of the time,” The Humane Society says.
Keeping pets safe in winter: A video from The Humane Society
WTOP’s Randi Martin contributed to this report. Follow @WTOP and @WTOPliving on Twitter.