Texas winter storm: Pet owners encouraged to take precautions

The Austin Animal Center is encouraging pet owners to remember their furry friends during the winter weather.

Animal Protection Officers will be triaging calls and responding to emergencies, according to the animal center. Their response capabilities will be affected by road conditions and call volume, but if you are concerned about a pet please call 311 to make a report.

An arctic air mass will continue to spread across the Austin area today, bringing the coldest temperatures we have seen so far this winter.

According to the National Weather Service, wintry precipitation, mainly in the form of freezing rain and sleet will occur across portions of South Central Texas this morning into this afternoon and early evening. There is also a strong possibility that freezing rain and sleet amounts will cause hazardous driving conditions.


These tips can help make sure your pet is safe during a winter storm:

  • Bring them inside. Even though they have fur, pets are still at risk of hypothermia in freezing weather. Longer furred breeds like huskies and Great Pyrenees may have a higher tolerance for cold weather but no pet should be left outside for long periods during freezing temperatures.
  • Keep walks short. Shorter-haired dogs are going to get cold faster, and elderly dogs may have problems walking on the ice. Check their paws to make sure balls of ice haven’t formed between their toes.
  • Provide shelter. If you’re unable to bring your pet inside, make sure they have adequate shelter. The shelter should be up off the ground if possible and the door should face away from the wind. Provide thick, dry bedding and replace it regularly if it gets wet. Do not use space heaters or heat lamps due to fire risk, and don’t use heating pads as they can burn your pet’s skin. Remember that the Safe Outdoor Dogs Act passed recently which requires outdoor dogs to have access to fresh drinking water (so make sure it’s not frozen by changing it out regularly) as well as shelter that they can stand up in and turn around comfortably.
  • Recognize a pet in distress. Signs of hypothermia in pets include shivering, lethargy, weakness, and shallow breathing. Frostbite can also be a risk for ears and tails; signs of frostbite include red, swollen areas or pale, white areas. Consult your veterinarian if you are concerned your pet may be hypothermic or have frostbite.
  • Thump your car hood before starting the engine. Sometimes cats take cover in engine compartments and can get seriously injured and/or transported away from their home. By hitting the hood of your car, it gives them a chance to get out safely.

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