The Edmond Sun

November 20, 2007

Freezing temperatures mean pets need extra care


STILLWATER — Much of Oklahoma already has experienced near or below freezing temperatures. While it is easy for humans to simply turn up the heat in their homes, pets require extra attention from their owners.

When the weather turns cold, it is best to keep your pets indoors, said Dr. Carolynn MacAllister, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension Service veterinarian.

“Although it’s best if pets can be kept inside, but if that simply isn’t possible, it’s critical for pet owners to provide their animals with a shelter that is insulated and protected from the icy winds we can experience here in Oklahoma,” MacAllister said. “Make sure the shelter is big enough for your pet to fit in easily, but small enough so that the animal’s body heat can warm the shelter.”

Pet owners also need to make sure the shelter has a floor and some type of bedding such as an old blanket or straw. Make sure the shelter’s opening has some sort of flap to cover it to help keep out the wind. In addition, the door should not face the north.

Because pets burn more calories keeping warm during the winter months, they will need to be given extra food so they can produce more body heat. Bowls of water can freeze quickly in the cold, windy weather, so it is important to check the pet’s water several times a day. It is ideal to serve the pet warm water throughout the day.

“Last year Oklahomans experienced severe winter weather. Should we experience another round of ice and snow this year, pets should be kept inside the home or in a heated facility,” she said.

In addition to providing pets with appropriate shelter, another winter concern can be roaming cats and wildlife. These animals are looking for shelter and warmth in cold weather, so it is critical to check under the hood of your car and honk the horn before starting up the engine.

MacAllister said animals are drawn to vehicles because of the heat an engine puts off. These animals will crawl up inside the motor in an attempt to keep warm, but this can be deadly for the animals if the driver starts the vehicle before checking under the hood.

Just as it is important for humans to exercise, pets need exercise as well.

“If you walk on pavement that has been treated with a chemical to melt ice, be sure to wash the pet’s paws thoroughly. Also, remove the ice and snow from between your pet’s toes if you’ve been outside playing in the snow with your pet,” she said.

Frostbite is not a common problem for animals that are healthy, well-nourished and acclimated to cold weather. If frostbite does occur, it is usually on the tips of the ears or tail.

“Everyone likes to be warm and cozy on those cold winter days and your pet is no different,” MacAllister said. “Take special care to ensure a safe winter for your pet.”