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How to keep your fur-baby safe in Winnipeg’s deep freeze

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How to keep your fur-baby safe in Winnipeg’s deep freeze
It’s feeling like the dead of winter out there, and animal advocates are reminding Winnipeggers that the temperature drop could be deadly for your furry friend – Jan 9, 2024

It’s feeling like the dead of winter out there, and animal advocates are reminding Winnipeggers that the temperature drop could be deadly for your furry friend.

Jamie Murphy, a behavioural outreach facilitator with the Winnipeg Humane Society (WHS), said temperatures below zero degrees should trigger red flags, and anything below -12 C could be fatal. However, she said there are some ways to protect your pet from the chill.

“A lot of people are familiar with dog boots while they’re going outside. Their paws are very sensitive,” she said. Initially, some dogs will “duck waddle with them,” which means the sizing of them may not be right, or they just need to get used to them.

If it’s a matter of something weird on their feet, Murphy says to have your pet where them in the house for a bit.

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For smaller dogs, she said sweaters are fantastic. “Their bodies are going to take the temperature shift a lot quicker than a larger dog would.”

Reducing walk times, and monitoring your pet while they’re out in the back are also good practices in winter weather, she said.

When taking your dog for a walk, or letting them out, Murphy said, “Especially keep your dog’s body language in mind.” Shivering, limping, lifting their paws, trying to lay down on the ground and lifting their paws from the surface are all things to be aware of.

“A big thing is ears for dogs,” she added. “If their ears start getting cold, that means they’re susceptible to frostbite. There’s not enough blood flow reaching there.”

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If these signs are present, she said your dog is too cold, and left unmonitored, the risk of hypothermia and frostbite increases.

As a general rule though, “If you’re cold, they’re cold,” Murphy said, adding it’s alright to keep them inside.

“Some animals, when it starts getting cold, might surprise us and just stop right when we reach that door threshold and say, ‘I’m good,'” she said.

In this case, it may be time to get creative and use puppy pads. “A lot of people have actually taken to placing mat of fake grass down, or even a tarp covering part of their yard,” she said. “When the snow falls, they actually just lift that tarp and there’s grass underneath and the dog will feel more comfortable going out and using that spot.”

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Either way, when it’s that cold outside, your pet will be spending more time indoors–maybe just like you.

As such, Murphy said, “You are going to notice a change in their behaviour. You’re going to notice they might have a little bit of a cabin fever,” resulting in a lot of energy with nowhere to go.

If you’re struggling with a high energy fur-baby, she said to wear them out mentally.

“Things like puzzle feeders or slow feeders, even finding activities you can start teaching your dog,” she said, will all help.

Jackie Hanna, a board member for K9 Advocacy, said strays need extra care over winter, and to keep a watch for them.

“We are worried. We are worried about dogs freezing. We have about 10 or 11 litters of puppies that need to come in that are just outside,” she said. “The weather is now really turning cold. They’re just … basically going to freeze to death if we don’t get them in, or if another rescue can’t take them or any of those situations.”

She said if you see a stray, “Bring them in until we can actually come get them.” Whether that’s a home or heated garage, it doesn’t matter — it just needs to be “a space that’s warm, (where they can be) fed and taken care of.” The hope is to keep them in a safe place until either the owner, or rescue, comes.

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Hanna said the charity is struggling to keep up with demand.

“K9 Advocacy has been so unbelievably busy this winter. I’ve been with the rescue for about five or six years and the amount of dogs that need to come into the rescue has exploded.”

“We are desperate right now,” Hanna said, calling for Manitobans to open their homes to foster a pup to free up space for those left out in the cold.

Murphy echoed these pains, saying, “We are struggling to find spaces for animals.”

She said the WHS has about 50 puppies and over 40 dogs right now, waiting for permanent and foster homes.

“Fostering has been one of the biggest parts of how we’ve been able to manage these types of situations,” she said. “There’s no cost for fostering. We cover everything,” including food, toys and the like.

Click to play video: 'Keeping our pets safe in the cold'
Keeping our pets safe in the cold

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