Cook County Animal and Rabies Control Offers Winter Pet Safety Tips

November 12, 2019

With potentially accumulating snowfall followed by the season’s coldest temperatures, Cook County’s Animal and Rabies Control offers the following tips to keep pets safe and healthy during the winter months.

  • Bring all pets indoors: All dogs and cats, whether they are acclimated to outdoor living or not, must be brought indoors during sub-zero weather. As the responsible caregiver of a pet, you should provide an indoor heated shelter for your animal. 
  • Salt and ice: Both salt and ice can irritate your dog’s footpads. If your dog will tolerate them, foot coverings are advised. If your dog will not tolerate foot coverings, avoid the salt when possible and wash the dog’s paws with warm water when you return home.  
  • Frostbite: Dogs and cats may have fur coats but they also have exposed areas that are susceptible to frostbite. Limit their time outdoors for waste elimination only. Walks should not exceed 10 minutes in sub-zero temperatures. Check their pads when you get home and wash with warm (not hot) moist towels. If you suspect frostbite on any extremity, including the nose or the tips of the ears, contact your veterinarian.
  • Keep them leashed: More pets become lost in the winter than any other season because snowfall can disguise recognizable scents that would normally help them find their way home. Prevent your pets from becoming lost by keeping dogs leashed on walks and, just in case you are separated from your pets, make sure their collars have up-to-date contact information and they are microchipped.
  • Be seen: Due to Daylight Savings, many of us are relegated to walking our dogs in the dark. Keep yourself and your dog are safe by wearing reflective gear (clothing, leash, collar, etc.) and keeping your dog close when walking on the street.
  • Properly secure potentially poisonous material, such as antifreeze: Antifreeze is extremely toxic to all living creatures. Keep antifreeze bottles out of the reach of animals and clean up all antifreeze spills immediately.
  • Be prepared: Winter brings extreme weather that can cause power outages. Have an emergency plan and make sure it includes your pets. Have an emergency kit with enough food, water and medication to last your pets at least five days. You may never need it, but if you do, you will be thankful you planned.

Recommendations regarding wild and feral animals:

  • Honk before starting your car: Feral cats and wild animals will seek refuge and warmth wherever they can. A car’s engine, for example, may provide a warm spot to “hole up” in sub-zero conditions. Drivers should honk their vehicle’s horn before starting the ignition to give a wakeup call to any critter that may be hiding.
  • Call officials if a wild animal enters your home: If an animal has chosen your attic, your garage or even space under a deck as refuge, close off access to the rest of the house and contact local officials for their removal. 

While laws in some municipalities may require only that pet owners provide food, water and a shelter, an outside dog house may not be suitable during severe cold weather. All residents are urged to be alert to pets being left outside for extended periods and to call authorities if they see an animal that could be in danger.