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The frigid temperatures could result in the deaths of many animals left outside without adequate shelter, food and unfrozen water. Hypothermia, frostbite and death are very real possibilities for any animal left outside, especially when cold temperatures are accompanied by wind, rain, and/or snow.


Keep pets indoors and warm

  • Don’t leave dogs or cats outdoors when the temperature drops below 32 degrees. Shorthaired, very young or old dogs – and all cats – should never be left outside. Puppies do not tolerate the cold as well as adult dogs so make sure they have a safe, warm place. No matter what the temperature is, wind chill can threaten a pet’s life. Pets are sensitive to severe cold and are at risk for frostbite and hypothermia when they are outdoors during extreme cold snaps. Watch for signs of hypothermia—shivering, weak pulse, dilated pupils, stupor and unconsciousness. If an animal exhibits these symptoms, get them to a veterinarian right away! Exposed skin on noses, ears and paw pads can quickly freeze and suffer permanent damage. Never leave your dog or cat alone in a car during cold weather. A car can act as a refrigerator in the winter, holding in the cold and causing the animal to freeze.


Take precautions if your pet spends a lot of time outside

  • If for some reason your dog is outdoors much of the day, protect it with a dry, draft-free shelter that has three solid walls, solid flooring and a leak proof roof that is large enough to allow the dog to sit and lie down comfortably but small enough to hold in his/her body heat. The floor should be raised a few inches off the ground and covered with wood shavings. Do not use blankets or cardboard. The house should be turned to face away from the wind, and the doorway should be covered with waterproof burlap or heavy plastic. If your cat is outdoors it needs protection from the elements as well as food and water. If your pets spend a lot of time outside, increase their supply of food by 30%, particularly protein, to keep them and their fur in good shape. Chapter 6, Article I, Section 6-6 (d)(1) of the County Ordinance states that it is unlawful to confine an animal in such a manner that constitutes abuse and cruelty. Abuse is defined in the ordinance as “failing to provide a shelter for the animal which is surrounded on three (3) sides, covered by a roof, and has a floor (excluding barns), and which is structurally sound, maintained and in good repair, and constructed in such a manner that it is water and wind resistant.” Violations of these ordinances are subject to criminal penalties.


Give your pets plenty of water

  • Pets that spend a lot of time outdoors need more food in the winter because keeping warm depletes energy. Check your pet’s water dish every 5 hours to make certain the water is fresh and unfrozen. Use plastic food and water bowls rather than metal to keep your pet’s tongue from freezing and sticking to metal.


Be careful with cats, wildlife and cars

  • Warm engines of recently parked cars attract cats and small wildlife; they may crawl up under the hood. To avoid injuring any hidden animals, bang on your car’s hood to scare them away before starting your engine.

Avoid antifreeze poisoning

  • Antifreeze is a lethal poison for dogs and cats, but it has a sweet taste that may attract animals and children. Be sure to thoroughly clean up any spills from your vehicle, store antifreeze (and all household chemicals) out of reach, and consider using products that contain propylene glycol, which is less toxic than ethylene glycol to pets, wildlife and family members.




Give your horses shelter and dry warmth

  • Be sure your horses have access to a barn or a three-sided run-in so they can escape the wind and cold. While not all horses will need to be blanketed, blankets will help horses keep warm and dry, especially if there is any rain or snow. If you’ve body-clipped your horses, keep them blanketed throughout the winter.


Supply food and water to your horses around the clock

  • Give your horses access to unfrozen water at all times. You can use heated buckets or water heaters /

    de-icers to make sure the water doesn’t freeze. Feed your horses more forage—unlimited amounts, if             possible—during extreme cold. This will help your horses create heat and regulate their body temperatures.


Here are some important things to keep in mind to keep animals safe during the summer months:

  • NEVER leave your pets unattended in the car! Temperatures inside a parked car can very quickly reach temperatures over 100 degrees and can turn fatal in just a few minutes! Download the Humane Society’s “Hot Car flyer“.

  • Always have fresh drinking water available for your pets

  • Provide shade and a dog house for your dog to get some relief from the direct sun

  • Limit exercise on hot / humid days

  • Keep your pet cool ‘inside and out’ with pet-friendly popsicles or ice cream, a kiddie pool, water hose or cool body wrap. Don’t rely solely on the power of a fan to blow warm surface air on your pet as that is often not enough

  • Watch for signs of overheating and heatstroke:

    • Heavy panting, glazed eyes, rapid heartbeat, difficulty breathing, excessive thirst, lethargy, fever, dizziness, lack of coordination, excessive salivation, vomiting, deep red or purple tongue, seizure and unconsciousness






NC has laws to protect animals from this kind of suffering. If you see an animal who is tethered outside without access to shelter or who is suffering in any other way (abuse, abandonment, neglect, etc.), call Animal Control immediately for help. Time is critical and your phone call could save a life.


Animal Control will be swamped with calls during cold and heat spells. Please continue to call them to make reports, but in cases where IMMEDIATE help is needed for an animal, call the Police or Sheriff’s Department as well.

Forsyth County Animal Control:  336.703.2490 or 336.703.2480
Forsyth County Sheriff’s Department:  336.727.2112
Winston-Salem Police Department:   336.773.7700

Check out these news reports to see how

Fur-Ever Friends is advocating for animals left out in the cold

FOX 8: Piedmont Triad groups works to protect animals from the cold


WXII 12: Protecting your pets in cold weather


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