When I was out shoveling the driveway in the bitter cold wind last Sunday, I heard the frantic barking of a dog outside.
I was shivering inside my layers of t-shirts, sweater and down coat, my fingers sore and growing numb in spite of my warm gloves. So I could not imagine that this animal was any more comfortable, and any less in danger, than I was, even with a coat of fur.
Luckily, it was only Benjy, the playful beagle who lives behind us, completely forgetting the weather hazards in his pursuit of a squirrel in a nearby tree. His owner was himself shivering in an attempt to lure the crazy little guy back into the house with a treat. Benjy finally opted for the sure thing, and went indoors.
Our companion dogs, and cats, are best kept indoors during the winter, except for potty breaks, and brief exercise for the heartier breeds. Even with fur, animals can still be in danger of frostbite and hypothermia if kept outdoors too long in bitter cold.
If you have a dog, keep watch for shivering, whimpering, and the lifting of the paws. Those are indications that your friend is dangerously cold. If your dog has short fur, a dog coat is a good idea. I prefer those that completely cover the belly and close with a Velcro strip across the back.
After walking a dog, check the paws for bits of ice and salt. Some dogs have deep pads, so you have to swipe deeply inside to clear them. Use a clean towel to gently dry your dog's coat and paws.
Cats who wander on their own may find the engine blocks of parked cars to be warm shelters against the bitter cold. If you park outdoors, give your horn a tap, to clear out any critters who might be hiding there, before starting the car.