Tips for keeping pets safe during cold winter

Scrolling through the news headlines on the computer last week, an article titled “Dog Frozen to the Ground” caught my attention.

Upon opening the story, a picture of a small Sheltie mix named Peanut tugged at my heart as I read about his horrific experience. The little dog was found frozen to the ground, his feet, tail and stomach adhered to iced feces. It took sheriff’s deputies half an hour to thaw the little guy using warm water.

Fortunately, Peanut was confiscated from his owner and turned over to a local shelter where he is expected to fully recover. He was a lucky one.

I read another article of a pit bull left outside in freezing temperatures and it did not survive and froze to death.

In both cases, the owners were charged with animal cruelty and face jail time and fines. That’s a paltry conviction for the life of an animal. My idea of justice is not so lenient.

In both cases, authorities were notified by compassionate neighbors witnessing the neglect. One of the articles referenced the fact that law enforcement cannot possibly identify all activities in their jurisdictions.

Often the only way officials learn of distressing situations is with the help of concerned citizens, willing to come forward with information pertaining to animal abuse or negligence. And if you disagree with current laws regarding fines and justification of animal cruelty penalties, then perhaps your involvement in changing these laws is paramount.

This has been a bitterly cold winter in the Grand Valley, and we have more weeks of inclement weather ahead. There are circumstances in some people’s lives in which pets must stay outside. Allergies, asthma and other respiratory conditions in people often keep pets from residing inside the home. While we have not experienced the unbelievable cold temperature’s created from the polar vortex, western Colorado continues to hover near freezing: 32 degrees.

If it is necessary to keep your pet outside, there are some things you can do to prevent serious injury during cold winter nights.

A well-insulated shelter will give your pet refuge from freezing temperatures and icy winds. Straw is a wonderful padding that provides a barrier from the frozen ground. Bedding, such as blankets and pillows, also can be used, but whatever material you place in the shelter, make sure you check it often for excessive moisture.

Depending on the size of the shelter, a simple light bulb can be used to emit a tremendous amount of heat. The light will need to be situated safely in the shelter to prevent other mishaps from occurring such as chewing on electrical cords or breakage. An outdoor timer easily can be attached to ensure the light comes on and off even if you are not home.

One of the biggest challenges during frosty temperatures is keeping your pet’s water bowl from freezing. It is important to always have fresh water available for your pets; however, this can be difficult if your pet is outside.

Heated water bowls are quite effective in winter to prevent the water from turning to ice. As they typically require electricity to heat the bowl, make sure the electrical cord is inaccessible to chewing teeth. Also, the water will evaporate quicker in a heated bowl so make sure you monitor fluid levels frequently.

There are solar-powered water bowl heaters available that undoubtedly work quite well on a sunny day, but would probably freeze over at night. Check out the website,

Another option is to place the water bowl in a white Styrofoam cooler. A hole can be cut in the side of the cooler to allow accessibility to the water bowl. However, this is probably not the best option if your pet is an excessive chewer. (Visualize little white pieces of Styrofoam all over the yard.) The coolers do make great shelters for outdoor cats, however.

It is hoped the bitter cold days and nights we experienced in December are a memory, but there is plenty of winter left on the calendar. Pet owners are solely responsible for the care of their four-legged friends, and a pet’s dependency on that care ultimately defines its survival.

Charlé Thibodeau has been a passionate pet caregiver for more than 30 years and is the owner of Ah, Natural! Ltd. If you have a pets question you would like Thibodeau to answer in her column, email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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