Winter in Texas, one day it is 54 the next it is 70.  We are having some unusual temperature fluctuations this year due to El Nino but we still have a few months that could get really cold.  With the cold comes the reminder to make sure your pets are warm, dry and safe when it gets cold outside. 

When the temperatures fall to the freezing mark, it is best to leave your pets inside if at all possible.  Keep in mind the happiest dogs will need to go out for exercise, walks and bathroom breaks frequently. Short haired pets may need the extra protection of a sweater or jacket to help keep them warm while they are on a walk.  Pets are sensitive to severe cold and are at risk for frostbite or hypothermia during extreme cold snaps. Exposed skin on noses, ears and paw pads can quickly freeze and suffer permanent damage. 

If for some reason your dog is outdoors most of the day, plan accordingly.  Make sure there is a dry, draft-free shelter available for them that is large enough for them to stand up, sit and lie comfortably in but small enough to hold his/her body heat.  The floor should be raised a few inches and covered with cedar shavings or straw. The door should be covered with a waterproof material to keep the wind and snow out. 

Pets that are outdoors will need additional food because keeping warm depletes energy.  Routinely check the water bowl to make sure it is unfrozen and has fresh water.  The food and water bowls should be make out of plastic. In freezing temperatures, a metal bowl could cause your pet's tongue to freeze to it. 

Salt and other chemicals used to melt snow and ice can cause irritation to your pets paws and their mouths when they lick so make sure to wipe off your pets paws with a damp towel.

Antifreeze is deadly poison but has a sweet taste that attracts animals and children. Wipe up any spills and keep antifreeze out of reach.  Read more about pets and antifreeze.

Be careful with pets, wildlife and cars. A warm engine can provide shelter and warmth for cats and wild animals.  Bang on the hood of your car or honk your horn to scare any animals that may have taken shelter in the engine compartment of your car. 

If you see a pet in an unsafe situation, politely let the owner know that you are concerned.  If they don't respond well document as much information as you can including a description of the animal and circumstances, date, time, location.  Take pictures of the situation too.  Then contact your local animal control or sheriff's office and present them with your evidence. Take detailed notes of who you have spoken with and if the situation is not remedied in a day or two follow up with them again.