By Jamie Laubenstein, AS, CVT, ’07
Originally published in the November 25, 2022, edition of the Valley Advantage.
As autumn golds fade to winter blues, the temperatures outside begin to drop significantly. As responsible pet owners, it is important to know the laws, obligations and options we have during these winter months.
Libre’s Law, signed by Governor Tom Wolf in August 2017, includes a section regarding leashing your dog outside. Dogs cannot be tethered outside for more than 30 minutes in temperatures below 32 degrees and above 90 degrees. We must also be diligent in ensuring that any outside water sources do not freeze over.
What does this mean for those who want to enjoy outdoor activities in the snow with their pets? Well, there are several options available to us to help prevent hypothermia or frostbite in our furry friends.
Pet clothing and specially designed doggy boots can allow your canine companion to enjoy their time outside.
There are a variety of coats, sweaters, body suits and hats designed to fit any size dog to help them stay warm when outside. Dog boots help protect sensitive paw pads from frostbite or damage while walking in the snow or on a frozen sidewalk.
However, some dog breeds have been bred for and used for working outside during these chilling months dating back as far as 4,000 to 6,000 years.
Breeds such as the Siberian Husky, Alaskan Malamute and Samoyed have been pulling sleds and helping hunters survive arctic conditions. Their thick double coats help them to thrive in wet and cold weather. Having thicker fur between their paw pads helps protect them from the cold and frost, allowing for better travel.
The Saint Bernard, Bernese Mountain Dog and Greater Swiss Mountain Dog were all bred to withstand a cold climate, herd and guard livestock and assist soldiers in wartime. Not only are these dogs highly intelligent and easily trainable, but they also make excellent family companions.
Dogs are not the only ones that may need some help outside in the winter months. Many of us may have a few stray cats around the neighborhood that can use some extra TLC right about now.
If you can humanely trap them and get them to a local shelter or rescue before the temperatures drop significantly, this is the best option. However, some cats are too smart to trap but need our help all the same.
Shelter from the elements is a great first step to helping them survive the winter. A DIY shelter is cheap and easy to set up — all you need is a plastic container, insulation and bedding. Begin by cutting a small opening in one side of the container, line the container with foam insulation and then add a thick layer of straw for bedding. Make sure you place the enclosure somewhere quiet so that you see the cat frequently and where they will feel safe to use it.
Water is the second most important part of survival in the winter. Since streams, lakes or puddles are often frozen, providing a water source that they can easily access, and doesn’t freeze is essential.
Lastly, you can put out some dry cat food during the day for an easy meal but you will want to pick up the food at night to prevent raccoons or other wild animals from visiting during the night.
There are many options for us to enjoy the snow with our pets. Whether it’s making snowballs for them to chase or sledding down the hill, our pets can be part of these experiences. Be mindful of how long they have been outside, as often they will want to keep playing past the time it’s safe for them to be out.
Enjoy this season with your furry pal, and let it snow!
Jamie Laubenstein, AS, CVT, ’07 Johnson College alumni, is a full time CVT instructor at the Johnson College Veterinary Nursing Program as well as a clinical rotation instructor at the Animal Care Center on campus. She has been part of the veterinary field for 19 years.