BUCKHANNON — The first official day of winter was December 21, and as we move deeper into the season, temperatures will drop further and further towards freezing.
During cold days and nights, it is very important to consider your pet’s safety in freezing temperatures. Although dogs and cats are equipped with fur to keep them warm, temperatures can get low enough to cause harm or even death to your pets.
America Veterinary Medical Association suggests, “Just like people, pets’ cold tolerance can vary from pet to pet based on their coat, body fat stores, activity level, and health. Be aware of your pet’s tolerance for cold weather and adjust accordingly.”
Just like humans, dogs and cats are susceptible to hypothermia and frostbite. While thick-coated dogs and cats are more tolerant of cold temperatures, no pet should be left outside for long periods of time in freezing temperatures.
If you are unable to keep your pet inside during cold weather, AVMA prompts pet owners to please “provide him/her with a warm, solid shelter against wind. Make sure that they have unlimited access to fresh, non-frozen water. The floor of the shelter should be off of the ground and the bedding should be thick, dry and changed regularly to provide a warm, dry environment.”
Buckhannon’s local animal rescue group, Lewis-Upshur Volunteers 4 Animals (LUV 4 Animals) regularly bears witness to dogs and cats that have been harmed by being left in freezing temperatures. LUV representative Desiree Poling urges the public to consider their pet’s health. She explained, “A plastic dog box is not enough in the freezing temperatures. They need straw inside the house. Make sure that it’s straw and not hay, as hay gets wet and can make it colder. Also, blankets are not good to leave outdoors, they can become wet and freeze which makes the situation worse.”
If you need assistance providing straw or housing for your pet, Poling said, “You can contact us on the LUV 4 Animal’s page, the Animal Outreach Project on Facebook, or contact your local Animal Control Officer. We have left some straw for them to give out.”
Poling said time is of the essence and urged, “Please do not wait until the animal is already freezing. Call us in advance and we can bring it out for you, or make plans to meet up. Also, if you see another person’s animal or a stray/feral animal in need, please contact us or your local Animal Control Officer and we will reach out to them.”
Another important thing to consider, even for indoor pets, is to be mindful of their paws during winter months. “Snowmelt and salt can burn your animal’s paws. Be sure to wipe down your pet’s feet, legs, and belly when you get back into the house. Check their paws for signs of cracked pads or bleeding. You may want to keep their walks shorter if you notice that they are affected by the cold,” Poling suggested.
Signs of hypothermia in dogs and cats include whimpering, shivering, anxiety, slowed movement or breathing, and looking for warm places to burrow. Keep an eye on your pet’s behavior and be mindful of their health and well-being during this season’s poor weather conditions.