Thin-skinned Californians are experiencing a rarely felt cold snap and it has them bundling up. With temperatures in the 20s during the late hours in the valleys and even colder in surrounding mountain areas, residents are waking to lawns that look like icescapes.
But while people are huddled indoors with heaters and roaring fireplaces, some four-legged family members are being forgotten outside.
“A lot of people don’t think about their animals,” said Willa Bagwell, executive director of Animal Friends of the Valleys in Lake Elsinore. “Pets are too domesticated to stand this kind of cold.”
Animal Friends of the Valleys, a nonprofit organization that provides animal services to the cities of Lake Elsinore, Canyon Lake, Wildomar, Menifee, Murrieta and Temecula, has seen a great increase in what they call “welfare calls” during the last few days of cold weather.
“Our calls go up in extremely hot or cold weather because neighbors see animals out there in the cold and rain or in the heat and they worry,” Bagwell said. “It’s a good thing that they are calling.”
Bagwell suggests that dogs and cats be brought indoors, at least into a garage if not into the house.
“Even if the dog is in a crate in the garage, at least it’s inside,” she said.
Doghouses provide some protection, but the temperatures within will still reach levels similar to those outside in the elements. Blankets may at least help, but indoors is the safest solution.
Bagwell also warns that water is freezing at night so it’s important that pet owners are sure their animals have access to a fresh water supply.
Another danger to pets during cold snaps is antifreeze.
“When it’s cold, people often add antifreeze to their cars,” Bagwell said. “If it spills, be sure to carefully clean it up. Antifreeze is very toxic to animals and they love the taste of it. They can die from it.”
Outdoor cats may also be drawn to the warmth of engines under the hoods of cars, so be sure to make a lot of noise before starting engines in the morning in order to give any sleeping cats a chance to escape.
Leave dogs’ coats long and shaggy during the winter months to provide extra warmth. And, a coat or sweater may be a good addition for short-haired dog breeds.
Puppies don’t tolerate the cold as well, so paper-training may be a safer alternative for housebreaking during the winter.
Most importantly, be sure household pets have a warm place to sleep at night, preferably off the floor and away from any drafts.
“Keep them warm,” Bagwell said. “And keep them safe.”
Jennifer Dean is a local writer and regular contributor to SWRNN.