Editorial: Don’t forget about pets in cold weather

While Maryland’s temperatures aren’t even close to approaching dangerous wind chills being felt in the Midwest, it’s still pretty darn cold outside here and will remain so the next few days before warming up over the weekend.

Temperatures dipped into single-digits overnight and Thursday are expected to remain well below freezing, with the possibility of more snow Friday morning. It goes without saying that you should avoid or at least limit strenuous activities outdoors if possible, and if you must be outside in the cold, don’t forget your hate and gloves, and dress in loose-fitting layers; the air between the layers will act as insulation and keep you warmer.


While you might be able to hunker down inside, your pets may need to go outside a few times during the day to take care of business. Pet owners who don’t want to stand outside in the freezing cold waiting for Fido to find the perfect spot may opt to put them on a tie-out, while the owner stays inside warm and cozy.

Sadly, some owners tend to forget their animal is out in the freezing cold, which can be just as dangerous to pets as it is to humans.

If you don’t want to be outside in frigid weather, your dog doesn’t either, even if he’s got a built-in furry coat. Like humans, pets exposed to cold temperatures for a lengthy period of time can experience hypothermia. If your pet has been exposed to the cold weather and is showing symptoms — including low respiration, violent shivering and pale or blue gums — then warm it slowly to avoid shock and get it to a veterinarian immediately, suggests the Baltimore Humane Society in Reisterstown.

And don’t be afraid to speak up if you see someone else leaving their pet in the cold. The Humane Society of the United States recommends first politely letting the pet owner know you are concerned. But if they don’t respond well, document what you see in detail including date, time, exact location and type of animal. Video and photographic documentation may help. Then contact animal control — in Carroll, that’s the Humane Society of Carroll County, at 410-848-4810 or 410-875-5379 — and local law enforcement. Follow up in a few days if you see the behavior continuing.

County law outlining proper outdoor dog shelter, care and protection standards can be found online at

Another hazard to dogs this time of year is ice melt and road salt. If you’re walking your dog, try to avoid walking him in the street, where he could ingest road salt, which can be toxic. The salt can also be quite irritating and painful to their paws.

Dog booties or putting petroleum jelly on a pets’ paws before you go for a walk can protect their paws, but a simpler method is to just wipe off their paws with a lukewarm wash cloth to remove melting salt and ice build-up after your walk. This will also keep your animal from ingesting toxic salt when they groom themselves later.

If you have pets, or even if you don’t but you have neighbors who walk pets along the sidewalk, use a pet-friendly ice melt at home whenever possible.

Finally, a pet who is used to running around outside might get bored when you don’t let them out as frequently because of chilly weather. Food puzzles and training games are recommended to provide your pet some mental exercise to tire them out when they can’t spend a lot of time outdoors.