County Health Department Urges Caution for People and Pets during Cold Weather
(February 19, 2015) – The Saint Louis County Department of Health is urging people to use caution and common sense during the period of extremely cold temperatures expected in the St. Louis area over the next few days. Pets and people unable to care for themselves may require extra attention. If you are cold, they are cold.
“Whenever St. Louis experiences temperature extremes, people need to consider those who may not be able to care for themselves,” said Dr. Faisal Khan, director of the health department. “This includes our children, our pets, and the elderly, and it can sometimes also mean our friends and neighbors.”
The health department recommends the following pet-related precautions:
Whenever possible, keep pets inside. Outdoors, pets can freeze, become lost, injured, or killed.
If pets must be outside, provide a flexible cover or wind break for dog house doors, face the door to the South, and use STRAW for bedding – not hay, towels, or blankets as these can become wet and make the space colder. (There is free straw available at the Saint Louis County Animal Shelter and a limited number of outdoor pet houses for people that cannot bring their pets indoors; residents can call or stop by 7 days a week to receive assistance for outdoor pets.)
Never let your dog off the leash on snow or ice, especially during a snowstorm. Dogs can easily become lost. Make sure your dog always wears ID tags.
Thoroughly wipe off your pet's legs and stomach when it comes in out of the sleet, snow, or ice. Pets can ingest salt, antifreeze, or other potentially dangerous chemicals while licking its paws or body.
Never leave your dog or cat alone in a car during cold weather. A car can act as a refrigerator in the winter, holding in the cold and causing the animal to freeze to death.
Like coolant, antifreeze is a lethal poison for dogs and cats. Be sure to thoroughly clean up any spills from your vehicle, and consider using products that contain propylene glycol rather than ethylene glycol.
The Saint Louis County Department of Health’s Animal Care and Control Services Program also operates an anonymous tip line called Heffie’s Help Line. People can anonymously report suspected animal abuse – including weather-related dangers – and an animal control officer will investigate. Heffie’s Help Line can be reached by calling 314-615-1777.
The health department is also recommending people adhere to the following standard cold-weather safety precautions:
The elderly and very young should stay indoors as much as possible. Offer to shop for elderly friends and relatives. Just like in the summer with heat, it takes some time to get acclimated to cold weather.
While indoors, try to keep at least one room heated to 70 degrees. This is especially important for the elderly and small children to prevent hypothermia.
Wear layered clothing outdoors for better protection from the cold. Wear a cap to prevent rapid heat loss from an uncovered head. Cover exposed skin to prevent frostbite.
Check daily on elderly friends, relatives, and neighbors who live alone.
Avoid drinking alcoholic beverages.
Eat high energy foods along with warm beverages and soup.
Sleep warm with extra blankets, a warm cap, socks, and layered clothing.
Avoid fatigue and exhaustion during cold weather. Overexertion, such as shoveling snow or pushing a car, can strain your heart.
Carry extra clothing, blankets, and high energy snacks, such as cereal or candy bars, in your car for your protection if the car stalls. Keep the gas tank near full to prevent icing. Don't travel alone. Bring a fully charged cell phone in case you need to call for help.
Be careful when using fireplaces, stoves, or space heaters to stay warm. Carbon monoxide poisoning and home fires are very real winter hazards.
For information about emergency shelter, call the United Way at 211 from a residential phone or at 1-800-427-4626 from any other type of phone.
For more information, please visit the department’s Cold Weather Precautions webpage at:
The Saint Louis County Department of Health is a member of Operation Weather Survival – a network of public and private organizations that collaborate, coordinate resources, and help educate the public to prevent illness, injury, and death caused by extreme hot or cold weather. More information about Operation Weather Survival can be found at: