Orange County Animal Services reminds citizens to consider the safety of pets as the winter season approaches. The most important thing that pet owners can do to keep their pets safe is to keep them indoors as temperatures drop. Freezing temperatures can be dangerous for pets and people alike.
It is a common misbelief that dogs and cats are more resistant than people to cold weather because of their fur. Like people, pets have various levels of tolerance to cold weather, but even long and thick-haired pets are at risk of developing frostbite or hypothermia. Very young and old pets, and those with medical conditions may have a harder time regulating body temperatures and be more susceptible to problems in extreme weather. No matter what the temperature is, wind chill is a serious threat to pets that spend time outdoors. Exposed skin on noses, ears, and paw pads can quickly freeze and cause permanent damage to a pet.
For livestock and other animals that cannot be taken indoors during cold temperatures, protection from wind, rain, and cold must be provided. Cats and dogs should have dry, draft-free shelters that are large enough to allow them to sit and lie down comfortably, but small enough to hold in their body heat. The floor should be raised a few inches off the ground and covered with insulating material such as straw. Doorways should be covered with waterproof burlap or heavy plastic. Horses and livestock should have access to a barn or shelter that protects from cold and wind. Blankets may help keep horses dry and warm, especially if rain or snow is present. All animals spending any amount of time outdoors should be given extra food during colder temperatures. Water should be checked frequently for freezing and changed regularly. Heated buckets or water heaters may be used for horses and livestock to ensure water does not freeze.
If you see a pet left outdoors without adequate protection from the elements, report it to Animal Services right away by calling 919-942-PETS (7387) or by calling 9-1-1 after hours if the situation is life-threatening.
Other important reminders during cold weather:
- Bang on hoods! Warm vehicle engines can be appealing for cats and other animals when temperatures drop. Bang on hoods and check underneath cars before starting the engine during cold weather.
- Prevent poisoning! Antifreeze and other common chemicals smell sweet and can be tempting for animals. Wipe up any spills and supervise pets when they are outdoors.
- Wipe and check paws! Salt and other chemicals used to melt snow can be dangerous for pets’ paws. Be sure to wipe down your dog’s feet after walks. Check all paws frequently for common cold weather problems like cracked pads or frostbite.
- ID tag and microchip! Lost pets may have an even harder time finding their way home in extremely cold temperatures. Sense of smell may be affected and pets may become disoriented more quickly. Be sure your pet is wearing his or her collar with an ID tag. Have your pet microchipped if you want to improve your pet’s chances of getting home safely.
- Visit a veterinarian! A yearly exam for pets is recommended and can go a long way in protecting your pet. You’ll need to be aware of any health concerns that should be considered during extreme temperatures.
- Be proactive! Just like having an emergency preparedness kit, it’s important to think ahead for cold weather preparation. Sweaters for short-haired dogs, blankets for horses, straw, heaters, medications, needed phone numbers, and other materials should be available and ready for use in the event that cold weather strikes or power outages occur.
- Educate & inform! Make sure neighbors, friends, and family also know these cold weather safety tips and are doing their part to keep animals safe during the bitter cold.
For more information about protecting animals during cold weather, review this article provided by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). For more information about Orange County Animal Services, visit www.orangecountync.gov/AnimalServices.