Keeping Our Pets Safe During The Winter Storm

If you live in Dallas/Fort Worth, then you are facing a week of unprecedented arctic temperatures, power outages, and water shortages. It's been a RUFF week.


Our pets, even the ones who live outside full time, cannot withstand the single digits we are experiencing without our help. Here are a few "hot" topics with tips on how to keep our four legged loved ones safe during this winter storm.


Dogs

While some Texans are discovering how much their dogs may love the snow, to ensure your dogs' safety, stay outside and monitor their reactions and behavior to the bitter cold. While a husky may be in their element wanting to play all day, its a good idea to keep their playtime down to 5-10 minute increments.


Despite their extra layers of fur, dogs can get hypothermia or suffer from frostbite. Just like people, pets' cold tolerance can vary from pet to pet based on their coat, body fat stores, activity level, and health. Small, dogs, puppies, unhealthy or underweight pups, or senior dogs can be more susceptible than a healthy adult dog. Your Siberian Husky is likely to want to stay out in this winter wonderland, while a Dachshund may refuse to go outside at all.


You suit up for these single digits, so no reason why we can't outfit our dogs too! Some dogs may not be a fan, but jackets, vests and booties, can protect their bodies and paws from the harsh elements. Plus they make for great photo ops during our snowy play dates!


Domestic Cats

If your cat is one to find hiding spots, you may find them seeking out different areas for the warmth of heaters, heating pads or warm blankets. Especially if you have no power, a warm bed and blanket for your cat will help them feel more comfortable. Cats have a low tolerance for temperatures below freezing, so keeping them warm is essential.


Feral Cat Colonies

For any cat, whether they are domestic or feral, temperatures below freezing make them susceptible to hypothermia and frostbite. Feral cats are no different. They are always looking for warm places to snuggle up and shelter from the cold and potential predators.

What Can I Do To Help Our Neighborhood Cats?

Building an outside shelter for a cat can be an inexpensive and fun project for the family. The shelter should be large enough that the cat can turn around in it, and can be constructed of wood, foam or plastic bins with holes cut in the side for an entrance.

  • Elevate the shelter off the ground.

  • Place the construction in a spot where it will be undisturbed.

  • A good-size shelter offers space just big enough for three to five cats to huddle.

  • Keep predators at bay by making the shelter door no larger than 6 to 8 inches wide.

  • Put a flap over the door to keep snow, rain and wind from getting inside.

Insulate the Shelter Against Moisture as Well as Cold

  • Straw (not hay) provides both insulation from the chill and a comfortable spot for sleeping. Do not place blankets inside the shelter, as they absorb moisture like a sponge.

  • If your garage or shed is acting as a shelter, take out dangerous antifreeze products, which are lethal when consumed. If the use of antifreeze products cannot be avoided, choose to use a less-toxic antifreeze made with propylene glycol rather than the highly toxic ethylene glycol.


Avoid Salt and Other Melting Products Salts and chemicals used to melt snow can be toxic to cats and other pets, and possibly injured their paws. Such products should be used with caution, even if they are labeled as “pet safe.”

Check Your Car Before You Drive Without a safe haven of warmth, cats will go looking for other warm, covered places such as under the hoods of cars. Here, they are protected from the elements and the engine can put off heat hours after it has been turned off, but if the car is started while they are hidden away, they can be severely injured or even killed.


Hypothermia and Frostbite In Pets

When your pets have been outside, watch their behaviors closely. Hypothermia may cause pets to seem mentally dull or antisocial while frostbite shows up as swollen, red lesions. Frostbite does not occur at a specific temperature, but rather results from a combination of cold weather, heat loss, and decreased blood flow. If you notice any signs of hypothermia or frostbite, call your vet immediately.


Equine & Livestock

Livestock can generally tolerate cold temperatures, but wind, rain, or snow will require a greater expenditure of calories. With that in mind, be sure they have a way to get out of the elements, especially the wind, by having at least a wall to stand by. Blankets can help protect horses, but a structural shelter with proper ventilation and dry bedding is the best method of protection. If you do blanket your horses, be sure to check underneath often for signs of injury, infection, or malnutrition.


Besides taking shelter, livestock keep warm by expending energy, which means they need to consume enough calories to heat themselves. Consider talking with your veterinarian to develop a feed plan that meets your animals' nutritional needs. This may mean increasing the amount of feed available to your animals, and/or increasing the quality of feed. Very young, very old, or sick animals will typically have additional nutritional needs during the winter compared to healthy, middle-aged animals.

It is crucial that your herd - and all your pets - have access to fresh and unfrozen water. Tank heaters or heated buckets can help keep water at a temperature your animals are more comfortable drinking. Livestock will not consume adequate amounts of water if it is near freezing, and consuming enough water is important to your animals' health and well-being in winter months.​

Chickens can withstand the cold as long as they stay dry. Donkeys are more susceptible to the cold, and need blankets or another heat source. Goats need to be brought into an indoor space like a barn, garage or pen.


All animals — including our dogs and cats — will do better in extreme cold if they have more daily calories. If you increase the amount of food you give your pet, they’ll withstand the cold temperatures better.


Remember, the best way to keep your pets safe is to keep them inside! If you cannot stand being outside for more than 5 seconds at a time, your pets can't either so please bring them pets in!


Pets and People, Saving Each Other™

www.hsnt.org


HSNT’s mission is to act as an advocate on behalf of all animals and to ensure their legal, moral and ethical consideration and protection; to provide for the well-being of animals who are abandoned, injured, neglected, mistreated or otherwise in need; to promote an appreciation of animals; and to instill respect for all living things.

Sources for this blog post provided by:

Dallas Morning News and American Veterinary Medical Association.


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