Pet owners seek ways to help animals weather winter

Chica, a 7 year old miniature Pinscher, licks her owner Al Lewis Monday afternoon at Al’s Pets in Clovis. (CNJ staff photo: Sharna Johnson)

By Tonya Garner: CNJ staff writer

This week’s cold weather has residents bundling up in sweaters and winter coats. Parents have started adding mittens and scarves to their children’s wardrobes while pet owners are taking their furry, four-legged friends into consideration as well.

Chica, the beloved pet of Al Lewis, is considered an “inside dog” by her owner. Lewis, owner of Al’s Pets, said the miniature Doberman has an extensive wardrobe to help her through the winter months. “She’s a short-haired dog,” Lewis said. “So, she has several different sweaters we dress her in to stay warm.”

The animal lover said Chica also prefers to have booties over her paws before venturing outside when the ground is covered in snow. Although Lewis made light of his pet’s footwear, paw pad care is actually serious business.

The pet store owner said it is important to maintain a dog’s feet, especially during the winter months. According to, the salt used for de-icing sidewalks and roads can cause a dog’s pads to dry out, which often leads to painful cracking. Washing the canine’s feet in warm water after exposure is the best remedy.

Lewis said dog sweaters come in a variety of sizes and colors. “I keep selling out of the extra extra small sizes,” Lewis said. “Everybody has a little dog right now due to all the pictures of movie stars with them.”

Louisa Maestas, Clovis Animal Shelter supervisor, said the sweaters serve another valuable purpose other than warmth. “A dog wearing a sweater is easily identified,” Maestas said.

The supervisor said the best advice she can pass on to pet owners is to provide appropriate shelter for their outside dwelling dogs.

She said there is a large volume of complaint calls during the winter months, which are related to shelter. “We get a lot of phone calls about people not having adequate dog houses for their pets,” Maestas said. The shelter supervisor said she has two dogs at her home, which she keeps indoors during the winter months. For pet owners who are unable or unwilling to house their dogs inside, Maestas recommends placing a dry, draft-free dog house in the back yard. “It should be provided whether they want it or not,” she said.

According to Maestas, the provided shelter should face away from the cold northern winds. Placing the pet’s abode behind a barrier offers added protection. Maestas does not recommend using blankets to line dog houses outside because they hold moisture.

Local dog rescuer Carol Baker said straw or hay is ideal for winter dog bedding because it dries quickly. Baker said it is essential to create a warm environment for outside canines because hypothermia can set in quickly when temperatures drop below freezing.

“Puppies and smaller dogs can’t withstand the cold at all,” Baker said. “I recommend keeping dogs inside during the winter months.”

Winter pet tips:
• Anti-freeze is lethal to dogs so it should be kept closed and put away.
• Doghouses should be large enough for a dog to stand up, turn around and lie down in comfortably — but, small enough to trap and hold body heat.
• Pets should be dried after a trip to the groomers or bathing.
• Water should be checked often and replaced if frozen.