With Subzero Temperatures Comes Danger for Animals

Photo by Scott McCloskey While many pets enjoy playing in the snow, pet owners should keep several simple tips in mind to keep them safe from below-freezing temperatures.

WHEELING — As Old Man Winter prepares to deliver more snow and temperatures below zero in the coming days, area pet owners should keep several simple tips in mind to ensure the well-being and safety of their furry friends through the winter season.

Dr. James Radcliffe of Town and Country Animal Hospital in Mount Olivet said pets can be adversely affected if they are exposed to below freezing temperatures for long periods of time — especially puppies, smaller breeds and older dogs.

He said while frostbite can happen in temperatures below 32 degrees, it becomes a real threat when temperatures dip below 20 degrees. He advises to keep walks with your animal to 10 to 15 minutes at most when temperatures drop below 20 degrees. He said a dog’s paws, ears, and tail can get frostbite very quickly.

“If it’s too cold for you, it’s probably too cold for your pet,” Radcliffe said. “Never leave your dog outside unattended. There are more dogs that go missing in the winter” as they can become “disoriented” in below freezing temperatures.

If a dog’s body temperature gets below 95 degrees, it can become life threatening.

“Leave them at home if you must go out in the cold. … We saw a dog that lost the tip of its tail due to frostbite,” he said.

Radcliffe said pet owners should also wipe their pet’s paws and pads after they come in from outside because ice-melt products and cinders can cause damage. He said it can make a dog or cat sick if they lick their paws and ingest rock salt or chemicals. He recommends using “pet-safe” products to treat sidewalks.

According to the American Kennel Club, many times city streets and sidewalks are coated with de-icing substances such as sodium chloride and calcium chloride — which make sidewalks safe for pedestrians, but can damage an animal’s pads. They recommend to keep a bucket of warm water next to the door to rinse their dog’s paws as soon as they come in from the cold.

The kennel club and Radcliffe also remind pet owners to watch out for antifreeze spills. While antifreeze has a sweet taste to pets, just a very small amount can be deadly, if ingested.

It is recommended to make sure all spills are cleaned up immediately and thoroughly. It’s important to contact your veterinarian immediately if you suspect your pet has ingested antifreeze.

“Be very aware. I would keep dogs on leashes no matter what you are doing, unless they are in your own back yard,” Radcliffe said.

The same rules apply to cats and outdoor livestock. He said they need to be sheltered and to always make sure animals have access to fresh water.


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