DEAR JOAN: There was an article in the paper, "Wintry touch coming to town." The writers told of shelters for the homeless and suggested that we also cover our plants and wrap our pipes against freezing.

There was no mention of giving outside pets, especially dogs, protection from the freezing weather. Cats are pretty savvy on how to keep warm, but those poor dogs that are tied to a post in the backyard or even in a run need some extra care.

They need protection from the wind and rain, something off the cold ground to lay on and a doghouse according to their size. A small dog cannot keep itself warm with its own body heat in a doghouse meant for a large dog. Even a large dog cannot keep itself warm in a shed. The doghouse should be large enough for them to turn around and it should offer protection from wind blowing through and rain coming in.

Take special care of outdoor pets during the cold weather.
Take special care of outdoor pets during the cold weather. (David Eulitt/Kansas City Star)

Remember, a garage can get pretty cold at night, but with a proper size crate and blankets at least they would be out of the elements.

I am sure you have many other suggestions you can offer.

D. Englund

San Jose

DEAR D.: You did an excellent job of outlining what dogs need to survive this wintry chill. Unlike other parts of the country, we don't have snow, ice and prolonged freezing temperatures. Still, it's not pleasant being outdoors, and our pets can suffer hypothermia and frostbite.

Cats and dogs are social animals and enjoy being with humans. I encourage everyone to bring them indoors, at least for the duration of the winter.


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Here are some other tips.

  • Increase the amount of food your are providing outdoor pets. This will help them generate body heat.

  • Make sure they have plenty of water, and that it hasn't frozen. Dehydration is common in this cold.

  • Don't use metal food and water dishes. They can freeze, causing the animal's tongue, lips or nose to stick to them.

  • Make sure antifreeze containers are out of reach. Pets are attracted by the sweetness and even a few drops can kill them.

  • Don't use electric heaters or pads. They can short out or animals may chew through the cords.

  • Although we think cats have it better than dogs in cold weather, that's not really the case. Cats crave heat, and they often will crawl onto a car engine to find it. Before starting your car, check or rap on the hood or honk the horn before starting the engine.

  • The best bedding for outdoor pets is straw. It's good at holding in body heat, dries more quickly if it gets wet, and if it's fluffy, the animal can more easily burrow in.

  • I know that many people don't care for feral cats, but if you have them in your neighborhood, consider putting out boxes of straw to keep them from suffering so much.

    DEAR JOAN: In light of the approaching very cold weather, I put up a hummingbird feeder on my deck to provide a little something for them. At this time of year, flowering plants that provide hummingbirds with nectar are not in abundance.

    Planting a variety of flowering plants that flower different times of the season are very valuable to our nectar-feeding birds, bees and butterflies

    Brian Murphy

    Walnut Creek

    DEAR BRIAN: Great suggestions. Let's all follow suit.

    Contact Joan Morris at jmorris@bayareanewsgroup.com. Follow her at Twitter.com/AskJoanMorris.