As cooler temperatures approach and winter settles into Saskatchewan residents tend to reach for the blankets and turn up the heat in their homes. However, just like humans, furry companions also need protection from the harsh winter months.
A good rule to keep in mind according to Don Ferguson, Executive Director and Chief Animal Protection Officer for Animal Protection Services of Saskatchewan, is that if it’s too cold for you, it’s too cold for your pets.
“Within the Animal Protection Act there's two requirements under the animal care duties when we get to cold weather that are our big considerations,” he stated. “One being all animals, regardless of whether they're dogs, cats, or everything, require adequate shelter, and they also require what is termed as reasonable protection from injurious cold.”
Ferguson added that dogs and cats can develop hypothermia and even frostbite if left outside for too long.
One way to reduce the amount of time your pet spends outside during the winter is to take them on multiple shorter walks instead of one long one.
However, if your pet is going to be left outside for an extended period, there are steps to take to ensure their safety.
“If they're going to be left for any extended period of time, making sure that they have access to an adequate shelter where they can escape the cold and wind at all times,” Ferguson elaborated. “That needs to be a dry, insulated, elevated house with clean, dry bedding and preferably with a flap over the door opening to keep drafts out, and insulating it.
“Straw makes an excellent bedding material. We discourage things like blankets and carpet because they can become soaked and wet and don't provide the same insulation value.”
Dogs and cats are also far more likely to lose their scent and become disorientated in snow and ice, making it extremely important to keep track of your animals during a snowstorm.
Animals may also panic in a snowstorm and try to run away. More dogs are lost during the winter than in any other season.
Ferguson noted that keeping your pet safe throughout the winter does require more than just checking the temperature before letting them out.
“You don't know if your neighbour is using an environmentally friendly, pet safe, substance on their sidewalk to melt the snow and ice,” he elaborated. “So, without knowing what it is, I know many of the dogs don't like it initially, but certainly using the booties that you can get for them. But, if that's not an option, as soon as they get home just use a wet rag, wipe their feet and then dry it off. Making sure that there's the least amount of contact with any potentially harmful substances as possible.”
He also added that leaving pets unattended in a vehicle can be equally as dangerous in the winter.
“It's something that we typically associate with hot weather, with dogs being left in a hot car,” he continued. “It's equally as true in cold weather. A vehicle can act, essentially, as a refrigerator there in the wintertime, holding in the cold and causing an animal to freeze to death. So, leaving your dog in the car for any length of time in the cold weather is just as inappropriate as it is when we have extreme hot weather.”
If you believe that an animal is in distress, there are steps you can take.
Individuals anywhere outside of Regina can call animal protection services at (306) 382 0002.
Individuals within Regina can contact the Regina Humane Society Animal Protection officers (306) 777 7700
“We would much rather have it be an unfounded complaint and that there is actually a heated, insulated, doghouse that the person can't see rather than have a situation where we end up with a dog having injuries from some significant cold,” Ferguson concluded.