Let's face it, those of us who live in South Texas aren't used to very cold weather. That's why a lot of us moved here from elsewhere, and why we have "Winter Texans," who come south to avoid sub-zero temperatures and ice & snow where they live the rest of the year. Well, when it gets this cold, we need to take special care of our furry family members, too (no, not Uncle Bob with the hairy back). Our pets require special attention, so here are some helpful suggestions on how to do just that.

From the SPCA:

  • Watch the temperature. When it falls below 20° Fahrenheit, your pet needs to be kept indoors, except for the occasional short potty break. Short-haired dogs, cats and puppies tend to be more sensitive to the cold.
  • Keep your pet's coat well-groomed. Matted fur won't properly protect your pet from the cold.
  • Check your garage and driveway for antifreeze and other chemicals. Antifreeze tastes sweet to pets, however, most brands are very poisonous if consumed, and can be fatal. Contact your veterinarian immediately if your pet ingests any amount of antifreeze. There are pet-safe antifreeze formulas on the market; consider using one of those.
  • Check your pet's water frequently to make sure it isn't frozen. Cold or not, always make sure there is plenty of fresh drinking water available for your pet. Also, use a tip-resistant, ceramic or hard plastic water bowl, as opposed to a metal one. Like the kid in A Christmas Story, your pet's tongue can stick and freeze to cold metal!
  • Wipe your pet's feet and underside with a damp towel. Ice-melting chemicals can irritate and burn the pads on your pet's feet, and will cause serious injury if ingested.
  • If you must keep your dog outside for any period of time, provide a dry, draft-free doghouse. If needs to be large enough to allow your dog to sit and lay down comfortably, but small enough to hold his body heat. The floor should be raised a few inches off the ground and covered with cedar shavings or straw. Turn the doghouse so it faces away from the wind, and cover the doorway with waterproof burlap or heavy plastic.
  • Get into the habit of slapping the hood of your vehicle before starting it. In their search to keep warm outdoors, cats often take refuge next to a warm car engine or tire.
  • Keep in mind the amount of exercise your dog receives during colder weather. If your dog stays indoors more, he's probably getting less exercise and may need less food; however, if your pet is outside often he may need more food to burn the calories necessary to produce more body heat.

These are just a few tips to help keep your furry family members healthy and happy during our (hopefully brief!) cold snap!