Cold weather a threat to pets
Marble – During the snowfall in mid-December, the Valley River Humane Society received a concerned call about puppies left in the cold.
When Jonathan Hart, president of the animal shelter, arrived at the scene, one of the puppies already had passed. Sadly, it’s not a unique occurrence during the winter months in Cherokee and surrounding counties.
“We get calls every day from concerned neighbors when the temperatures we have right now are falling, particularly about smaller breed dogs,” he said.
Hart explained that younger and older dogs are more susceptible to the adverse effects of cold weather. Even though a dog might have been able to withstand frigid weather for the last 10 years, that doesn’t exempt older dogs from suffering.
Like people, dogs and cats are susceptible to hypothermia and frostbite if left in cold conditions. Hart said the fastest way to recognize hypothermia is when a person’s pet starts to act anxious. This can include a lot of pacing, the inability to get comfortable and shivering.
In most cases, he said when a dog recognizes something is wrong, it will do its best to convey that message.
“We like to think that the dog has a big fur coat on,” Hart said. “Particularly here, animals aren’t acclimated to single-digit temperatures. They’re going to feel the effects.”
He recommends bringing pets into the house, garage or any place insulated from the elements. If the dog is unable to come inside, he advises people to provide a doghouse-type shelter filled with straw or wood chips. Hart cautions against putting blankets outside for pets because they collect moisture and freeze.
For cats, whether strays or outdoor pets, he recommends placing a Styrofoam cooler with a secured lid outside, filling it with straw, then cutting a hole in its side for an entrance. Increasing food and monitoring the water bowl also is an important precaution for owners to take when caring for outdoor pets.
“Get more protein in their diet, as they’re going to burn more energy-producing heat,” Hart said. “Also, make sure their water
bowl is not frozen. Bring warm water, not boiling off the stove, so it won’t freeze right away.”
When walking dogs out in the cold, he tells people to remember where their paws are touching. Since concrete becomes cold in the winter, he encourages people to not walk their dogs as long. If the dog walks over salt, clean their paws afterward to remove the irritant.
With fewer options for warm shelter, stray and outdoor cats often seek protection inside car engines or under wheel wells.
“The best thing you can do is just be aware of that fact when you start your car,” Hart said. “Give it a little while, sometimes they’ll jump out.”