Pets Need Extra Care as Temperatures Drop

Photo credit: onegreenplanet.org

Photo credit: onegreenplanet.org

Roscommon County Animal Control Director Terry MacKillop advises animals need extra care in extreme cold. This post was originally on the Roscommon Animal Shelter Facebook page.

Cat owners should not let their indoor cats outside in cold weather. MacKillop cautions that cats will seek warmth from the heat car engines generate & suggests tapping the hood of vehicles before starting.

When it comes to dogs, Officer MacKillop advises they should be taken in the house or garage in extreme cold. If a dog does stay outside, fresh water should be provided every two hours. Dogs cannot survive on snow or frozen water; a five gallon bucket of snow will only melt to about a quarter of an inch of water and dogs that chew on snow are depleting energy that they should be conserving.

In addition to a constant supply of fresh water, an insulated shelter is needed. MacKillop suggests facing the dog’s shelter to the southeast, away from winds & to be sure the shelter is elevated off the ground so air can circulate around the structure. When selecting a plastic dog house, he advises to be sure the house is either an insulated igloo or does have some sort of insulation inside the plastic panels. In cold temperatures dogs will also need more insulation. Mr. MacKillop suggests providing dogs with straw, which should be changed at least every two weeks.

He says dogs should never be given blankets since they trap moisture which draws heat from the dog’s body; that moisture can freeze, causing the dog to shiver & use more energy that it could be conserving.

The Roscommon County Animal Shelter, located at 1110 Short Dr. Prudenville, will provide straw to those who cannot afford it. Otherwise Mr. MacKillop says, in general a bail of straw costs about $6. And will last an extended period of time once it’s pulled apart. He added to place the straw inside the dog’s house, however the dog may pull the straw out & create its own pile. When a dog builds its own pile, the dog is “nesting” or creating a warm place where it is comfortable.

MacKillop suggests in extreme cold to watch for clues of hypothermia: excessive shivering & curling into a small ball could be indications that a dog is overly cold or has hypothermia. Other medical issues dog owners should look for include redding of the tips of the dog’s tail & ears as it may be a sign of frostbite. He added the pads of a dog’s feet should also be inspected & if a dog keeps lifting its feet from the ground, the feet are probably too cold. In extreme cold outside exposure should be limited to two to four minutes.

MacKillop noted that his own dogs on a fair day will stay outside for about 15 minutes @ a time but, now are ready to return inside after about two minutes. You really have to keep an eye on your pets he suggests.

If anyone suspects that an animal is being neglected they should contact the animal shelter immediately. The shelter can be reached by calling (989) 366-0260

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