Orange County Animal Services reminds citizens to protect pets as cold temperatures spread through the county and region. 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, but that is untrue. Like people, different pets have various levels of tolerance to cold weather, but even long and thick-haired pets are at risk to frost-bite, hypothermia, and even death when temperatures reach certain levels. Very young and old pets, and those with diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, or hormonal imbalances (such as Cushing’s or Addison’s disease) 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 materials such as cedar shavings or 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 temps.
- 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.
- Collar and Chip! Lost pets may have an even harder time finding their way home in extremely cold temps. Sense of smell may be affected and pets may become disoriented more quickly. Be sure your pet is wearing his or her collar and is microchipped with updated information in case you are separated from him or her for any reason.
- See a Vet! A yearly check-up for pets is recommended, and winter is a great time to schedule one if you haven’t already. Making sure your pet is in good health and knowing any health concerns that should be factored into outside time can go a long way in protecting your pet.
- 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 on-hand 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 household and community animals (and people) safe during the bitter cold!