Animal care in the cold
Veterinarian Fay Vittetoe reminds pet and livestock owners that their four-legged friends have much the same reaction to subzero temperatures as humans do and that care must be exercised for outdoor animals during inclement weather.
When the weather gets as cold as is predicted for the area for the next few days, Vittetoe said that even such things as taking a dog for a walk or letting them into a yard for a few minutes can be dangerous. She recommends boots designed for dogs, or even children’s socks in a pinch, to protect a dog’s feet. She said that dogs’ feet get wet easily, especially in the snow, and on the coldest ground — cement — can become frostbitten quickly.
“Wind chill affects animals the same way it affects humans,” Vittetoe said. “If it is cold enough for a person to get flash frostbite inside of 30 minutes, it is also cold enough for that to happen to an animal.”
Warning signs that the cold may be impacting outdoor animals includes hardness in the ears or the tail. She said ears and tails are the first parts of an animal to be impacted by frostbite.
Vittetoe recommends outdoor dogs have a house covered with a thick blanket or a flap on the doorway to keep out wind. She said the house should be about the size of the dog and warned owners to be careful of allowing the dog to have wet bedding. She also said owners should consult a vet about animals’ diet during inclement weather.
For livestock, Vittetoe says in some cases animals should be kept inside of a barn with a windbreak. Animals like horses should have blankets. She said owners should also be sure to knock snow buildup out of horses’ feet.
In some cases keeping animals in a barn can be dangerous, Vittetoe said. She said steam build up caused by animal respiration, can cause the animals to become wet and frost to build up. She said water conducts cold about 100 times more than air.
She said water heaters for livestock should be monitored two or three times daily. Again ears and tails should be monitored for frostbite and the animals should have dry, fluffy bedding. She said water is important for the animal to regulate its body temperature and livestock should get about a gallon of water per 100 lbs. per day.
Vittetoe reminds owners that warm water freezes more quickly than room temperature water.
Another concern, Vittetoe said, is when animals are transported. She said if animals are transported in open trailers, they will experience increased wind chill based on how fast the vehicle is going. She recommends enclosed trailers for transport.