It took a while, but we finally got our first cold snap last week, so now it’s a good time to think about protecting our pets from the elements this winter.

Make sure to have a cold weather plan. Though it does not happen often in south Louisiana, when we experience those freezing or near-freezing temperatures, pets need to be brought indoors to keep them warm and safe. It is a common myth that dogs and cats can tolerate cold weather because they have fur coats. While their fur may serve as some insulation, cats and dogs feel the cold just like we do. Prolonged exposure to frigid weather can cause conditions such as hypothermia and frostbite in animals.

If pets absolutely cannot be taken into the home, then provide them a shelter that is warm, protected from wind and rain, and raised off the ground. The garage or a shed and plenty of clean blankets are recommended. If they are being sheltered in a dog house, it should not be overly large and should have warm bedding that is changed frequently. Elevating the dog house off the ground a few inches will prevent moisture from coming in through the floor. In addition, a flap opening or positioning away from the wind will help keep the warmth in and the chill out.

Cat colony caretakers may want to leave a crack in the garage door so cats have a warm place to go. Cats tend to curl up in tire wheel wells and under the hoods of cars to escape the cold weather, so make it a routine to knock on the hood of the car before starting it. You don’t want to hurt any potential feline squatters.

Keep plenty of fresh, clean water available for both cats and dogs at all times, and make sure the water does not freeze. Dehydration is a problem in the winter, too. Be on the lookout for anti-freeze and rat poisoning – two items that are used a lot during the wintertime. It is always a good idea to keep all toxic items out of reach of the pets.

Remember: If it is too cold for you to be outside, then it is too cold for your pets.

EVENTS

DECEMBER: The Louisiana SPCA will offer half off the adoption fee of all adoptables. Regular adoption procedures apply.

DECEMBER: Presents for Paws presented by Gold’s Gym is proud to partner with the Louisiana SPCA for the holidays. Visit either of their West Bank locations, pick an ornament off the tree and drop off a donation. Visit www.la-spca.org/wishlist to view our wish list and for information.

DECEMBER: Raising Cane’s Restaurants are selling plush elf puppies to support Animal Rescue New Orleans. The plush puppies sell for $8.99 and are available at the following Raising Canes locations: 3235 S. Carrollton Ave., 2900 S. Claiborne Ave., 4740 Chef Menteur Hwy., 1406 St. Charles Ave., Riverwalk Mall and 8113 West Judge Perez Dr., Chalmette.

THURSDAY: “Toasts & Tails & Jingle Bells” will be held at NO Fleas Market, 4228 Magazine St., from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Look for holiday libations, light hors d’oeuvres, treats for the pooches, a 50-50 raffle, a special appearance by Ooops the Clown and the Amazing Mr. Cheese and holiday pet photos with Santa. Friendly, leashed, pets are welcome. Visit www.nofleasmarketnola.com or www.la-spca.org or call 504.324.4727 for more information.

SATURDAY: Mutts on Magazine Offsite Adoption, sponsored by the Louisiana SPCA, will be held from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at various locations along Magazine Street: The Bulldog, 3236 Magazine St.; CC’s Coffee, 2917 Magazine St.; Dat Dog, 3336 Magazine St.; Fleurty Girl, 3117 Magazine St.; NO Fleas Market, 4228 Magazine St. (cats/kittens only at this location); Petcetera, 3205 Magazine St.; West Elm, 2929 Magazine St.; and NOFD Fire House, 2920 Magazine St. A bake sale to benefit the Louisiana SPCA Heartworm Fund will also be at the Petcetera location, and donation bins for food pantry items, towels and blankets will be at CC’s, Dat Dog and NO Fleas Market. Louisiana SPCA adoption counselors and volunteers will be on hand to help you select the right pet for your family. A variety of shapes, colors and sizes of four-legged friends eager to find a new home will be available for adoption. Call (504) 368-5191 or visit www.la-spca.org for more information.

LOST OR FOUND PETS: In Orleans Parish you can send a photo, description of your pet, date lost/found and your contact info to lostandfound@la-spca.org, in Jefferson Parish send to molsen@jeffparish.net and bbourgeois@jeffparish.net and in St. Bernard Parish send to cluna@sbpg.net.

Traci D. Howerton is social media editor of Animal Rescue New Orleans, a nonprofit, volunteer-based, no-kill shelter. Contact ARNO at animalrescuecolumn@gmail.com, www.animalrescueneworleans.org or call our recorded information line at 504.571.1900.