PDT Staff Writer
Outdoor animals can be extremely susceptible to cold weather. And with temperatures at their lowest in 20 years, there are steps you should take to protect your pets from the elements.
“If the temperature is 20 degrees and it’s windy, a dog can suffer frostbite in 15 minutes,” said Dr. Gail Counts, of Shawnee Animal Clinic. “The tips of their ears, their tails and toes can all freeze in a matter of minutes.”
Counts said the most important thing an outdoor dog owner can do is attempt to put their pet in a heated area such as a garage. If that isn’t possible, Counts recommends dog houses with flaps of burlap to cover the doorway, where they can easily go in and out, and that the house is not too large for the dog, because the dog must heat the house with its own body heat.
“It should be about three times the height of the dog and should be closed off enough from wind,” she said. “People don’t realize how bad wind is, but if you get a pen or dog house that is big and roomy, the dog probably won’t be able to heat it up because of the wind that comes through.”
Counts said the Igloo type of dog house is well insulated. “With other houses, cedar chips make a good insulator. Straw is not good, but it will work in a pinch,” she said.
Counts said it is important that dogs stay dry.
“When they get in wet mud or puddles, they do not dry out, they go into their house and stay wet and their fur freezes,” she said.
Counts said small dogs, with thin hair, weighing less than 30 pounds, should not be outside at all. She also said those dogs are not outside dogs to begin with. Puppies are not able to warm their environment like grown dogs either.
Another issue is making sure the dog has access to fresh water that is not frozen.
“Heated water dishes are available. Those dishes have heating coils in the plastic,” she said. “You just have to plug it in to an electrical outlet.”
Counts said one of the dangers is antifreeze. “When they run loose and don’t have access to water, they will drink antifreeze because it is sweet, and that is deadly.”
A website with information on care of outdoor animals is aspca.org. That organization recommends keeping your cat inside. Outdoors, felines can freeze, become lost or be stolen, injured or killed. Cats who are allowed to stray are exposed to infectious diseases, including rabies, from other cats, dogs and wildlife. During the winter, outdoor cats sometimes sleep under the hoods of cars. When the motor is started, the cat can be injured or killed by the fan belt. If there are outdoor cats in your area, bang loudly on the car hood before starting the engine to give the cat a chance to escape.
Frank Lewis may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 252, or at firstname.lastname@example.org. For breaking news, follow Frank on Twitter @FrankLewisPDT.