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outside or inside dog?

OKLAHOMA CITY – Sadly, there is a common misconception that animals such as cats and dogs, because they have fur, are built to withstand bitterly cold, even below freezing, temperatures. This uninformed line of thinking unfortunately kills hundreds of pets a year, mostly due to hypothermia and frostbite.

With a polar vortex aiming to bear down on the metro this weekend, the Oklahoma City Animal Welfare office is hoping to help combat this cruelty and hopefully save the lives of many cats and dogs this winter season by releasing a list of helpful tips on how to keep everyone safe and warm as the temps get below freezing.

The main tip offered is to keep your pet inside the home as much as possible, providing them with a warm place to rest, preferably off the floor and away from cold drafts. This goes double for puppies; they have not learned to tolerate the cold yet.  Be patient with housebreaking, perhaps opting to paper-train the puppy inside instead of forcing them to go outside.

When you do take your pet outside for bathroom business, however, make sure if you bathe them they are completely dry and avoid giving them haircuts this time of year. Short-haired breeds can benefit greatly from a doggie sweater or coat with maximum coverage. Also, take great care to clean your animal’s paws, legs and stomach after every walk, double-checking to clear them of any salt (which can make paw pads crack and bleed) and possible antifreeze, which is lethal to cats and dogs and can cause a slow, painful death.

If your pet is unfortunate enough to have to live outside, make sure they have a warm enclosure that is protected from rain and snow, as well a constant supply of fresh water, lest it freezes over. Make sure to also give them more food that usually—especially meals packed with protein to help keep their fur thick. Don’t forget to make sure their ID tag is also up to date, in case they escape in search of warmth and get lost.

Automobiles can also be icy tombs for your loved ones; the same way a car traps heat in the summer, it can become a refrigerator on wheels in the winter and freeze an animal to death quickly. Additionally, many outdoor cats will search for warmth inside of cars, particularly under the hoods. Bang on your car hood a few times before starting the motor to give them a warning before they are mangled by the blades and belts.

There are few things that will ruin Christmas for years to come more than a beloved pet that dies due to your negligence. Following these tips—as well as utilizing compassion and common sense—will guarantee you and your pet a happy and healthy holiday season.