MOUNT VERNON — While everyone is probably taking precautionary measures to keep themselves warm during these few bitterly cold and windy days this week, all should be reminded that similar measures need to be considered for pets. Cats and dogs are very susceptible to hypothermia and frostbite if left outside in the frigid temperatures for more than a brief period.
“Just use common sense. If it’s too cold for you, it’s too cold for them,” said Mary Gillian, public relations officer at the Knox County Humane Society.
Gillian recommends that when pet owners put their pet outside to do their business, they should not be outside in the elements more than 10 minutes. The pads in their paws are susceptible to frostbite in only a few minutes when temperatures dip down near the zero mark on the thermometer.
Another concern to remember is to keep pets dry. If they get wet from rain or snow, thoroughly dry them off when they come inside to prevent frostbite or hypothermia from setting in.
For someone who has an outside dog, keeping them in an insulated, enclosed shelter with bedding and water can be adequate. Knox County Dog Warden Jordan Barnard suggests that bedding be hay or straw and not blankets which can freeze. Water should be checked frequently to assure it is not frozen. “I would like to see all animals brought inside if possible during temperatures like this,” said Barnard. Cats, also, should not be kept outside in these temperatures and should be brought inside.
If local residents happen to observe dogs outside during extremely cold temperatures, they are encouraged to call Knox County Animal Control at 393-6713. Barnard and his staff can do a wellness check if animals are spotted outside. Barnard told the News he also keeps an eye out when driving to see if there are animals that need a welfare check.
If there are cases of cats roaming outside during the extreme cold, people are encouraged to call the Knox County Humane Society at 392-2287 and take the cats to their shelter at 400 Columbus Road where they can be cared for.
Farmers also have similar concerns when it comes to caring for their livestock during the extreme cold.
“The three big concerns are food, water and shelter,” said Sabrina Shirtzinger, Knox County OSU Extension agent, livestock. Farmers are encouraged to check on the feed for their livestock several times a day and not provide just one large feeding. “Food is critical in their digestion, and fiber digestion produces body heat,” she said.
Water should also be kept available on an ongoing basis. Animals can get water from snow, but this should not be their sole source of water, she said.
All outdoor livestock shelters should be dry and clean, and adequate space should always be considered to shelter the number of animals. Windbreaks should also be provided to protect animals from wind chill. Larger animals which are used to being outside have a heavier coat and can withstand colder temperatures better than smaller animals. Bringing them inside during extreme temperature changes can actually cause them to get pneumonia, said Shirtzinger. However, newborn or very young animals should be taken inside during the extreme cold.
For small animals such as rabbits or chickens, heat lamps should be considered to keep them warm. They should also be kept out of mud which can reduce the insulation ability of their fur or hair coat.
“Just check them often. The more vigilant you are, the more likely you are to save them,” said Shirtzinger.
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