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Protect pets from winter’s chilly grip

It is the beginning of a new year, and the two coldest months of the season are ahead of us. As we are bundling up, pampered indoor pets are also donning their new sweaters and rain jackets they got for Christmas. Happy times!

However, in this article, we will talk about the brave outdoor soldiers who are patrolling our property, warning us about intruders and in general keeping the neighborhood alive with their serenading barks.

Like people, cats and dogs are susceptible to hypothermia, and should be kept inside during cold weather. Thick-coated dog breeds, such as huskies and Pyrenees, indeed do better than shorthair breeds, but even they get cold!

The signs of hypothermia could be whining, shivering, anxiety, slow movements, weakness, or dogs burrowing for a warm place. An easy way to tell if your pet is cold is to notice how they are resting. Curled up in a tight ball means they are cold and conserving body heat while being sprawled out shows they are warm and comfortable.

Feed them a little extra with a high-quality food. This helps them better maintain their body temperature. Having access to warm water will be great plus for many outdoor pets. Several manufacturers, like K&H, make heated pet bowls.

The next big issue is shelter. A thermometer reading alone does not give us the whole picture of how a pet feels. Wind and rain can also affect how a pet feels. Just like us, they tend to lose body heat much faster if they are wet and subjected to even a slight breeze on a cold winter day.

Build a shelter or buy a shelter. There are many online videos to guide you. Foam board insulation is a better choice compared to fiberglass insulation. T1-11 can be used for the exterior and the interior. Make the inside chew and scratch proof.

Be careful when heating the doghouse. I personally heard of two cases where the doghouse caught fire from the heat lamp. Consider something like CL Safe Chicken Coop Heater. There are also thermostatically controlled outlets to make sure heating apparatuses turn on when the temperature drops below a certain point. Please discuss the details with an electrician.

Now, about cats. Cats tend to find shelters, but they will cherish a nice cozy house. I guarantee that they will kill more mice if they can rest easy in their heated hunting cabin. K&H Pet Products and Kitty Tube make many kinds of heated cat houses.

Above all, consider safety. Think of and plan for all the possible ways things can go wrong. You will sleep happy.

Goutam Mukherjee, DVM, MS, Ph.D. (Dr. G) has been a veterinarian for more than 30 years. He works at his home as a holistic veterinarian and is a member of North Alabama Electric Cooperative. Send pet-related questions to