“Happiness is a warm puppy.” ― Charles M. Schulz

The other morning I left for work and saw the evidence that winter is just around the corner, my car windows were covered in ice. During this time one should start to winterize their vehicles by checking the tires and fluids. But what about your pets? There are things that all pet owners should know if their pets spend any time out in the cold.

I know there are many people who dress their pets in warm clothing when they let them go outside, which is perfectly fine. This can prevent heat loss, hypothermia and frostbite, but it does not protect their paws. Stores do sell rubber boots for your pets, but it can be a huge pain getting them to wear them. A better solution would be waxy ointment that can be rubbed onto the dog’s paws. It helps with drying, cracking and salt burns.

Salt burns can be caused by ice melt salt that we all use on our walks and steps. There are pet-safe brands you should use in areas where pets walk. Non-safe salt can damage the paws and skin of your pets and be harmful if they ingest it. Though you can’t control what others use where you might walk your pets. If this is the case, you should rinse your pet’s paws off when you get home to make sure there is no salt residue that may harm them.

If you have an outside pet, make sure you have a heated water dish for them. It is harmful for an animal to eat an abundance of snow. It can cause hypothermia. Also, the pet's tongue could stick to the cold, metal water dish so try to use a ceramic or hard-plastic dish along with the heater.

Your outside pet should also have an adequate shelter. This is a shelter that keeps them out of the harsh environment and can keep them dry. Don’t use blankets inside the shelter as they can get wet then freeze at a later time. Use hay or stray as a suitable bedding and replace it regularly.

Another danger to your pet during the colder temperatures is antifreeze. This is a highly toxic item. A few licks of the substance can be enough to kill your pet. Watch for spillage as they could step in it and later lick their paws.

When getting ready to drive your car you should tap on the hood as a precaution to animals hiding in your engine for warmth. Animal control gets many calls a year for cats or other animals that curled up there to warm up against the engine. Starting the vehicle could injure or kill the animal. As an added safety, honk the horn prior to starting the vehicle.

Lastly, when walking your pets in public, be aware of frozen lakes. Although they may appear completely frozen over, that does not mean they are. A pet could easily break through thin ice and die. So as a rule, just keep them off the lake.

Columbus Animal Control Lead Officer Shawn Flowers can be reached at sflowers@columbusne.us or 402-564-8839.