Common Sense for Winter Pet Care
Gloria Towle – Board Member
One thing that I am grateful for is the wonderfully mild winter we have been having! I’m sad for the lack of snow for those that enjoy sledding and skiing, but when the temperatures are a brutal 10 and 20 below zero, all I can think about are the animals (and yes “humans”) that have to endure being out in the cold. Please be the voice of those pets that are left out in the harsh elements and neglected…..a simple phone call to your towns Animal Control Officer to alert them of any situations that may need to be checked out. Remember to always provide adequate shelter. The cold weather is often accompanied by strong winds, so it is vitally important that a dog kennel provides adequate shelter. A well-insulated dog house should be sturdy, dry, and draft-free. The flooring should be raised a few inches off the ground and covered with cedar shavings or straw. The shelter should be large enough for your pet to turn around, but small enough to retain your pets body heat. Shield the doorway with waterproof burlap or heavy plastic.
Even with their fur coats, dogs are vulnerable to frostbite. Severe tissue damage will occur with prolonged exposure to the cold and happens most commonly in the extremities such as the ear tips, paws, or tail. The most danger occurs when the temperature or wind chill are near or below 0°F.
With all the rain and ice that we have had this winter, please watch out for your dog’s pads and feet. According to the ASPCA, some of the rock salt used as an ice melter can be irritating to your dog’s feet. Other dangers, such as puddles of the extremely dangerous toxin, antifreeze, can also end up on your dog’s feet and fur. Wipe your pet’s feet an underside off with a warm and wet towel after he comes back inside from the snow. Ice balls can accumulate on the fur of the feet and can become painful. The snow can also mask dangers such as sharp ice or metal. Lacerations of the feet and pads are more common in the winter months and should prompt a veterinary visit.
Hypothermia is also a danger and occurs when a dog’s core body temperature drops below the normal range. Numerous factors determine the temperature at which your pet is at risk of hypothermia. Temperatures below freezing are the most dangerous. Having a wet coat will also increase the risk. Some dogs can even develop hypothermia at temperatures above freezing if they are small breeds, have little fur, or are outdoors for a prolonged amount of time. Hypothermia is life-threatening if unrecognized and untreated. Signs of hypothermia can include: Shivering or trembling, lethargy, muscle stiffness or stumbling and loss of coordination, pale or gray gums, fixed and dilated pupils, low heart rate and respiratory rate & collapse or coma.
First aid can be provided if you are concerned that your dog is suffering from hypothermia. Gradual rewarming with a blanket or hot water bottles is safest. Seek veterinary care if you believe that your dog is suffering from severe hypothermia, or if your pet is showing symptoms other than shivering or mild lethargy.
Please stop by the Central Aroostook Humane Society or check us out on Facebook or petfinders.com. Hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 10:00 to 4:00, closing for lunch 12-12:30. Please be responsible, spay and neuter your pets!