Protect outdoor pets during freezing temperatures

Megan Kennedy

January 14, 2014

Preble County Humane Society President Leslie Renner, offers pet owners advice on keeping their four-legged friends safe this winter.

With the sub-zero temperatures that swept across the U.S. in recent weeks, it is imperative for pet-owners to be mindful of their outdoor animals.

“Obviously, the most important thing is shelter,” said Renner. “Pets could be in an unheated garage, and it’s still going to be 20 degrees rather than -14. There’s those levels of best, better, good, bad, and ugly.”

Renner also explained dehydration is also a great concern when it comes to extreme temperatures. Lukewarm water or warm water is recommended for animals that are affected by the cold temperatures. Comparable to humans who drink hot coffee or hot tea to keep warm, animals benefit form warm water to keep warm.

Renner believes using straw as a form of insulation is preferable over using blankets, as blankets can draw heat away from the animal.

The animals which are most vulnerable to suffering the freezing temperatures are short-haired, very young, or old dogs and cats. An article from the Humane Society of the United States explains animals, like humans, are at risk for frostbite and hypothermia when they are outside in cold temperatures. Exposed skin on noses, ears, and paw pads are subject to freeze, leaving the animal to suffer permanent damage.

Frostbite on an animal looks similar to what it looks like on a human. “It becomes white, the tips of their ears may become white because you can (or cannot) see the blood flow through,” said Renner.

Renner explained that if the animal’s paws get wet, perhaps by spilling their water bowl, “they’re gonna stick to the ground” due to freezing temperatures.

If a pet is in areas where there has been salt laid, “that salt is going to make their feet dry and cracked, and of course if it sticks to their feet and they come in and lick their paws, it’s going to make them sick,” said Renner. She said that antifreeze is also a deadly poison to pets.

For animals accustomed to living outdoors, he or she must be able to be protected by a dry shelter, appropriate to their size, and the opening should be pointed away from the cold winds. A shelter that is large in size for a small-breed will not be able to trap the animal’s body heat. However, the shelter must be large enough for the animal to allow them to lie down and turn around comfortably. The floor of the shelter must be raised off of the ground and the floor of the shelter must be covered with wood shavings or straw. The shelter should be turned away from the wind’s direction, and the doorway should be covered with waterproof burlap or heavy plastic.

“If the dog has to be outside, at least it’s protected and stands a chance of survival,” said Renner.

If neighborhood outdoor cats are found, either owned pets or community cats (ferals or strays), they also need protection from the elements.

To report animals that are in the cold, Renner suggests those concerned should contact the Eaton Police Department, or other local law enforcement.

Donations to the Preble County Humane Society are greatly appreciated, not only by the staff, but for the animals they care for. Donations can be made “online, send a check, or come in,” said Renner. The items most-needed by the shelter are cleaning supplies and cat litter. However, any and all donations are welcomed. The Humane Society is located on 951 South Barron Street in Eaton.