With much of the United States currently experiencing a deep freeze, it is vital that pets are adequately taken care of, and that they aren’t neglected and left to freeze to death outdoors. Tragically this winter, many are suffering, and countless others have already died.

Many dogs and cats have been discovered dead after being left outside overnight in below freezing temperatures, tied up without shelter, or left in outdoor kennels that do not have sufficient insulation. In many places animal neglect is a crime, with most states having specific laws that prohibit pets from being constantly tethered or left outdoors without shelter for long periods during extreme weather conditions.

A few tips for caring for animals during wintry weather:

>> Leave your dogs fur to grow during winter as their coat will keep them warm. If the dog has short fur, consider a dog-coat or jumper for walks.

>> Rinse and towel-dry their paws and clean their legs and bellies whenever they come indoors as salt, ice, and de-icers, coolants, and chemicals can be hazardous if ingested when they lick themselves.

>> Ensure they have plenty of fresh water to drink.

>> Change their sleeping location if the area they sleep in does not have adequate heating or cooling.

>> Don’t leave your pet to roam around outdoors unsupervised in severe weather conditions. Also, don’t leave an animal in a car in cold conditions, as the car can quickly freeze when in below zero conditions.

>> Take your pet to a veterinarian for a health care check once a year to ensure he or she does not have conditions that could worsen due to changes in temperature. Also be aware that age and illnesses can affect an animal’s ability to regulate their body temperature.

>> Consider shortening the length of dog walks when weather is severe.

>> Use heated pet mats with caution as some have been known to melt and cause burns.

>> Do not allow a dog off the leash when walking near water, or where ponds or rivers have frozen over, as water and ice can be deadly to animals that fall in, and also to their owners if they attempt to rescue them.

>> If you use portable heaters in the home or light open fires when the weather turns colder, then ensure they are pet-proof, not likely to be knocked over, or placed somewhere where they are not likely to burn or set fire to an animal.

>> Short-legged pets are more at risk during cold spells as their bodies are more likely to make contact with snowy or ice-covered ground.

>> Check your car before driving, as cats may climb under the hoods to snuggle near engines to keep warm, and many have been badly injured or died due to this. To be safe, look under the hood, underneath the car, bang on the hood and sound the horn to alert any animals that may have taken refuge there.

>> Do not leave electric heaters unattended in outdoor shelters, as they can easily set alight—sadly a mother dog and her puppies were burned to death recently due to a fallen heater.

It is important to remember that it is not just dogs and cats that need extra care and attention. All animals are susceptible to extreme elements, so be vigilant with horses and any other outdoor pets. Also, stock up on extra bird feeders. If you see a wild animal or any livestock that you think may be in distress, don’t hesitate to take action. Please click here for further recommendations.

If you are in doubt as to whether it is too cold for a pet to be outdoors, then ask yourself this question: is it too cold for humans? If the answer is yes, it will also be too cold for our beloved pets.