The following info/tips are cobbled together from various websites and intended as suggestions for actions to take during cold weather. Dangerous temperatures are forecast this week and all animals need extra consideration and help. Following are some simple ways you can help keep pets safe and comfortable during the winter months.
Provide Extra Food - Animals that spend time outdoors in the winter require extra food to give them the necessary energy to stay warm. If you normally feed once a day, double their food and feed twice each day.
Give Liquid Water - Ensure their water remains unfrozen by frequently replacing the water or using a heated bowl. Avoid metal bowls that tongues can stick and freeze to.
Have a Proper Dog House - A dog house needs to be the right size for your animal—just big enough for the dog to stand up and turn around, allowing the dog to retain its body heat. Make sure the doghouse is sturdy and has proper bedding. Straw is better than blankets, which soak up moisture that then turns to ice. Finally, the house should be turned away from the wind, or have an L-shaped entrance to reduce wind chill.
Help Cats, too - Cats also need shelter outside – a plastic storage bin turned upside down with a small opening cut in the side and bedding inside can work. If nothing else, provide a cardboard box with bedding for cats, but ensure it is located so it won’t blow away or be subject to rain and snow. Feed feral cats – if you know of an area where there are cats living, put out cat food for them every day.
Watch Closely When Your Pet Is Outdoors - If you let your pets outdoors to do their business, keep a close eye on them. Pets that are not acclimatized to the cold weather may not be able to tolerate the frosty temperatures, even for short periods of time. Watch your pets to ensure they aren’t showing signs of discomfort or distress while outdoors.
Care for Pads of Their Paws - Pets that go outside can pick up rock salt, ice and chemicals on their foot pads. After a walk, wipe your pet’s paws with a washcloth. This will keep their pads from getting chapped and will also prevent inflammation of the digestive tract that may result from licking the salt. Sometimes ice pellets will form in the hair between your dog’s toes, causing discomfort when they walk outside. The warmth of their feet causes the snow to cling to these hairs, melt, refreeze and allow for more snow to accumulate. Trimming the excess hair between their toes will decrease the development of ice pellets. If you are uncomfortable trimming the hair yourself, visit a professional dog groomer.
Be Aware of Garage Dangers - Make sure that all chemicals are properly stored and spills are cleaned up. Be especially careful with antifreeze, which has a sweet taste that attracts dogs, cats and wildlife but can be fatal in even small amounts.
Practice Caution Before Starting Your Car - Cats and small wildlife in search of warmth may curl up inside a car engine. Before you turn your engine on, honk the horn or knock on the hood to scare them away.
*** Your Pet Especially Susceptible - Animals that are young, old and in poor health are particularly susceptible to the cold. Conditions like diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease and hormonal imbalances can compromise a pet’s ability to regulate its own body heat. Animals that are not generally in good health—as well as very young and old animals—shouldn't be exposed to winter weather for a long period of time.
Report Neglected Animals - If you suspect an animal is being left outside for too long without proper protection from the elements, you can report it – in Frankfort and Franklin County, those calls should go to the Dispatch Office at 502-875-8583 and they will relay the info to the appropriate Animal Control Officer. However, one local animal rescuer suggests if you want to help, speak to your neighbor or the owner of the animal and if you are able, offer to provide a bale of straw and/or buy an extra bag of food for them. Most people will appreciate the offer and if they don’t, then make the call and report the neglected animal.
Help Wildlife – birds need extra food and drinking water during bad weather, as does other wildlife. Even bread and food scraps put out on the ground can help an animal survive another day (do not put out meat of any kind). Low shallow pans of water can be lifesaving (do not use metal).
Livestock need extra care - Animals can suffer from hypothermia, frostbite and other cold weather injuries. Harsh conditions weaken their immune systems and open the door to illness. Calves and swine are especially susceptible to cold. Make sure animals have a place to get out of the wind, even if it is just a windbreak or a three-sided shelter. Also provide dry bedding to protect them from frostbite.
Animals also burn extra calories to keep warm in severe cold. They also need access to fresh water – not frozen streams or snow. Stock tank heaters and frost-proof watering devices will ensure that livestock get enough to drink.
If you have any questions about cold-weather precautions for your pet, ask your veterinarian—your vet knows your animal’s specific conditions and will be able to help you.