Health and Human Services Agency




(South Lake Tahoe, CA) - With the arrival of winter, El Dorado County Animal Services is reminding residents to take precautions with their pets. "Winter in our county regularly brings freezing temperatures, frigid wind, ice and snow," said Henry Brzezinski, Chief of El Dorado County Animal Services. "These conditions can adversely affect animals in numerous ways, and even threaten a pet's life. A few simple steps can ensure your pet's safety."

According to Brzezinski, California law (CA Penal Code 597) requires that pet owners provide both shelter and protection from the weather for their pets. The following tips are recommended to keep animals safe and comfortable during the winter months.

Shelter and monitor pets

Keep pets inside whenever possible to protect them from the elements. Don't leave pets outdoors when temperatures drop. If a dog or cat is outdoors much of the day for any reason, protect them with a dry, draft-free shelter large enough for them to move comfortably, but small enough to hold in body heat. The floor should be raised a few inches from the ground and covered with cedar shavings or straw. The doorway should be covered with waterproof burlap or heavy plastic.

Pets that spend lots of time outdoors need more food in the winter because keeping warm depletes energy. Routinely check the pet's water dish to make sure the water is fresh and unfrozen. Use plastic food and water bowls; when the temperature is low, a pet's tongue can stick and freeze to metal.

Be sure horses and other livestock have shelter as well. This should include access to a barn or a three-sided run-in so they can escape the wind and cold. Blankets can also help horses keep warm and dry. It's important to give horses access to unfrozen water at all times. Heated buckets or water heaters/de-icers are helpful. Also, be sure to feed horses more forage if possible during extreme cold. This will help horses create heat and regulate their body temperatures.

Use caution on walks

When walking a dog outdoors, always keep them close by and on a leash. Don't let pets wander off leash.

Stay away from waterways that may appear frozen. Check weather reports before venturing out. If temperatures are too cold or potentially dangerous, postpone the walk.

According to the Humane Society of the United States, no matter what the temperature is, wind-chill can threaten a pet's life. Exposed skin on noses, ears and paw pads are at risk for frostbite and hypothermia during extreme cold weather. For this reason, short-haired dogs often feel more comfortable wearing a sweater, even during short walks. Rock salt and other chemicals used to melt snow and ice can irritate the pads of a pet's feet. Wipe all paws with a damp towel after walks to avoid the pet licking them and irritating their mouth. Another option is the purchase of dog boots to protect the pet's paws.

For additional winter weather safety tips for pets, see: For information about El Dorado County Animal Services, call at (530) 621-5795 on the West Slope or (530) 573-7925 in South Lake Tahoe, or visit


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