Be Winter Aware: Keep Your Pets Safe This Winter


CULLMAN – Last winter was one of the coldest on record for Alabama. Multiple polar vortexes caused higher than average snowfall and temperatures were well below freezing. Add to that a wind chill that was in the negatives, and you have a recipe for danger. This type of scenario can happen again, and it is important to remember your pets during these frigid months.

While some breeds of dogs and cats are suited well to colder climates, all animals need a safe haven from the cold bite of freezing temperatures. Susie Dickerson, DVM at Northside Veterinary Hospital, talked about the temperature at which an animal needs to be brought inside.

“When the temperatures get down to freezing or below it is important to bring your pets inside at night,” said Dr. Dickerson. “If you cannot bring them inside, then they at least need to be in a garage or shed. They need something up off of the ground with bedding or insulation like hay, or cedar shavings so they’re not on the ground.”

She went on to say that while heat lamps are a good source of warmth, they can also be a hazard if not installed properly.

“Sometimes people will use heat lamps and things like that out,” she said. “But we have had some incidents where a dog has been hurt because they chewed on the cord of the lamp. You have to be careful when you add things like that, because it can be dangerous.”

Another local veterinarian, Dr. Steve Murphree of Cullman Veterinary Hospital wants to remind the public of the importance of feeding during the winter months.

“One of the things I think a lot of people forget about, and especially in the winter time, is simple food and water,” he said. “Obviously if the animal is staying outside, then they have to generate their own heat. So they need to consume more calories to generate that internal combustion that keeps them warm. So you have to increase their feed intake, and also when there are prolonged periods of freezing temps we need to make sure that we change out their water if it becomes frozen.”

Dr. Murphree stated that he owns several animals that stay indoor and outdoor, but is sure to have insulated shelter for the outside animals in winter time. He also spoke of cost effective tricks that can help you offer shelter without breaking your budget.

“When it gets down into the twenties or teen temperatures my animals come in,” said Murphree. “For my outdoor cats, we have cat houses on the back porch. We made them out of Styrofoam coolers, and cut a hole in one side, laid down bedding, and they have an insulated shelter. Something that keeps them protected from the wind and elements.”

Murphree went on to warn pet owners of the winter danger of antifreeze that is prone to leak in some cars. Antifreeze is highly poisonous to animals and causes kidney failure, but animals are attracted to it due to the sweet taste and smell. He also said that checking around your engine is wise when you have outside cats, as they are drawn to the heat.

Our animals deserve our love and care, and all the ways to do it are fairly simple. Shelter, food and water are their basic needs when the temperatures are at their extremes. Let us all take the advice from the experts and be winter aware for our pets as we head into the cold winter months.

For more advice or information you can contact your vet or a vet listed here. For Northside Veterinary Hospital call 256-734-5557 or for Cullman Veterinary Hospital call 256-734-2181.