It can be life-threatening to leave a cat or dog outside, even with a heavy coat. Like people, pets are susceptible to frostbite and hypothermia.
The Great Plains SPCA (GPSPCA), a no-kill animal shelter in the Kansas City area serving 6,000 pets annually.
Animal Services (KCKAS), and the Humane Society of Greater Kansas City (HSGKS) encourage pet owners to keep their pets inside.
These organizations want to prevent the deaths of dogs and cats in Kansas City. It is a common belief that dogs and cats are more resistant to cold weather than people because of their fur. This is not true according to the GPSPCA.
“This is an issue we see every year and we are doing our best to educate our community on the dangers of midwestern winters,” says Kate Fields, HSGKC President and Chief Executive Officer.
These organizations do not recommend keeping a pet outside for long periods of time, but they have provided some tips to protect pets if that is not possible.
Cats should have a clean, warm place to sleep. Feral cats likely have a warm place to hide, but providing shelter is ideal. Styrofoam coolers can make a low cost and efficient shelter. Cut a hole for entry on the long side of the cooler and then stuff with straw and replace the lid.
Dogs should have a doghouse that provides a dry, draft-free space. It should be big enough for the dog to sit and sleep comfortably but small enough to hold in their body heat. The floor should be raised a few inches off the ground and insulated with straw or cedar shavings. The straw should be changed regularly, especially if it becomes wet. The opening of the house should face away from the wind. The doorway can be covered with burlap or plastic sheeting to help retain the dog’s heat.
It is important to make sure the pet’s water source is clean and not frozen. Dogs and cats also need more food in the winter to generate extra heat for warmth.
Pets should receive exercise every day. This will help them retain body heat too.
Fur should be groomed and unmatted. Matted fur won’t protect a dog or cat from the cold. Pets should be dry because wet fur could cause hypothermia.
If a pet develops hypothermia, warm them up slowly. Warming them up rapidly could cause more problems.
Signs of frostbite include pale, gray skin or skin that is cold and hard. The tissue will look red when it thaws and then will turn black a few days later.
“This is the time of year that our outreach team sees the effects of cold weather first hand,” says Fields. “It’s a good, if not disturbing, reminder to please bring your pets inside when you can, at least overnight.”
Supplies including dog houses, coats, fresh straw, and other items are available to owners in need. Contact any of the organizations below for more information.
Great Plains SPCA – (913) 831-7722 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Kansas City, KS Animal Services – During business hours at (913) 321-1445 or after hours at (913)
Humane Society of Greater Kansas City – (913) 596-1000 or email@example.com
The public is encouraged to report animals in danger to their local animal control agency. If you see an animal in distress please call 911. Contact the GPSPCA HERO Team at (913) 742-7327 or email if there is a pet in need of proper shelter.
To end on a positive note, we wanted to remind you to enter our Pitch Pets Kingdom Photo Contest sponsored by the GPSPCA. One lucky pet will win an Owlet Home, an at-home doggy camera.