Old Man Winter is keeping a hold on Upper Michigan’s weather…with temperatures in the teens and wind chill readings in the single digits. And as hard as that is on humans, it can be even harder on our furry friends.
If pet owners leave their animals outdoors for any length of time, they are required by Michigan state law to provide enough food and water, as well as adequate shelter. MHS recommends that dogs be provided a well-built, insulated, slant-roofed dog house. The interior should be just large enough for the dog to stand and to lie down comfortably and slightly elevated from the ground for air circulation. The door should face away from prevailing winds and have a protective flap to eliminate drafts. Clean, dry straw should be provided for bedding, rather than towels, rugs or blankets, which absorb moisture and freeze in frigid temperatures.
Examples of inadequate shelter include an unheated garage or shed, a dog house that is too large or lacks straw, or dogs simply tied out to a porch, fence or deck with no shelter at all.
Additionally, the Michigan Humane Society recommends the following pet safety tips:
• When temperatures plummet, pets should not be left outside for any length of time. Be sure to bring small or short-haired pets in when temperatures reach 15-20 degrees Fahrenheit. Be sure to take into account precipitation and wind chill.
• Cats should be kept indoors or at least brought into a warm, animal proofed garage during severe weather.
• Roaming cats often seek the warmth of car engines, so be sure to knock on the car hood or honk the horn before starting your car to startle them and give them a chance to escape.
• Increase the amount of food you provide for dogs left outside by 10-20 percent during the winter months. The extra calories are needed to help an animal to stay warm.
• Regular access to clean, unfrozen water is also critical. Check drinking water frequently – every few hours – to ensure that it is unfrozen.
• If an animal is cold to the touch, or his paws and ears are pale, he may be suffering from frostbite. Move the animal to a warmer area and contact your veterinarian immediately.
To report pets left outside without proper shelter, contact a local animal shelter or police.