During our drive to work one morning this week, I saw a time and temperature sign. The sign indicated that it was 27 degrees outside. I thought about how cold it was outside and how warm MacDog and I were in the truck.

Mac, being a rescue dog, could have been one of those unfortunate animals out freezing in the cold without proper food, water or shelter. However, 14 years ago when I rescued Mac, I gave him a promise that I would always take care of him. Mac’s not my pet – he’s my four-legged best buddy and part of my life.

As a responsible pet owner or animal caregiver, you make a commitment to your animal that you will provide proper care for him or her. Mac and I want to share some winter tips to help make your winter safe for your four-legged best friend.

Keeping pets outdoors

Low temperatures, winds and precipitation can lead to illness, hypothermia, frostbite and death. Check your pet often for any signs of illness or frostbite.

This usually shows up first on the tips of the ears, but is also found on the paws and pads, and the flanks and belly. Local law dictates a proper shelter and proper size for the animal with a flap to retain the animal’s body heat. Use nonporous bedding, such as straw or wood or cedar shavings.

Blankets get wet and freeze. Never use a space heater in the doghouse. Dogs will chew through the electrical cord or the heater can catch fire in the shelter. Wind breaks are nice to put up around the shelter, and bales of straw make good insulation.

Make sure your pet has plenty of fresh water, and don’t use metal dishes, as tongues can stick to frozen bowls. It is not necessary to increase calories for your animal in the winter unless it is a working dog. Keep your pet’s area free from all chemicals; a few licks of anti-freeze can be fatal. Keep your animal groomed and the hair trimmed between their pads.

Indoor pets

Young puppies and senior dogs do not do as well outside as a mature healthy dog.

Limit their time outside. Brush and groom your dog regularly, but do not clip them in the winter. They need their coat.

If you want to put a sweater on FiFi, that’s fine. Just remember, if it gets wet, she freezes and just because she has a sweater on does not mean she is warm.

Dogs lose body heat through their ears, pads of their feet and respiratory tract. Keep your pet’s I.D. on them at all times. In snow and ice, they can get confused. If they get out of the house and wonder off, they lose their ability to scent their way home.

When you go out for that walk, if it’s been snowing and ice melt or salt has been thrown down, spray a little PAM or rub Vaseline on the pads of their feet. When coming in from the walk, wash and dry their feet to remove the entire chemical residue.

If your animal is not getting as much exercise in the wintertime, reduce their feed a little so they don’t gain weight with you over the winter months. One of the things that I do with Mac is feed him a fatty acid supplement. It thickens his coat and makes his skin healthier during winter months.

Safety measures

Never leave your pet alone in a car during cold weather. A car can act as a refrigerator in the winter, holding in the cold. The pet can freeze to death.

Cats left outdoors sometimes climb into car engines or beneath cars to stay warm. Always bang on the hood of your car or honk your horn before starting the motor to warn a cat away.

Anti-freeze is like candy to an animal. If you spill some or there is a leak, clean it up immediately. Keep your pet on a leash when around a frozen pond or stream.

Winter can be as hard on pets as humans. Take your pet in for a winter check-up with your veterinarian to make sure they have no health issues.

And if you see a dog in need or being abused or in distress, please contact your local Animal Control.

You, the residents, are a very valuable resource for Animal Control. You are eyes and ears for us, so please call Animal Control at 870-935-3920 or email us at Animal_Control@jonesboro.org

Remember, dogs are social animals that enjoy living indoors with people. Living outside in a doghouse is a sad life, especially in the cold freezing winter.

Respect yourself and your animals.

Sgt. Larry Rogers is the supervisor of the Jonesboro Police Department Animal Control Division.