Local News

January 8, 2014

Cold temps bad news for pets

Temperatures have begun to rise from the extreme cold of the last few days, but pets can still face dangers from the winter cold, especially at night.

“Anytime water freezes, below 32 degrees, it makes it hard for them to maintain their hydration,” said Chris Stearns, a veterinarian with Dalton Animal Care. “It affects their digestive systems. When it gets bitterly cold it can be hard for them to maintain their body temperature. I recommend bringing them inside if that’s at all possible.”

If an owner absolutely must leave a pet outside, Stearns said they should make sure there is dry shelter protected from the wind.

“They should have some sort of bedding. Some people use wood shavings. Some fill a pillowcase with newspaper, or a foam pad covered with a sheet. Even an old blanket is wonderful,” he said. “They will also stay so much warmer if you can elevate them off the ground. Cold ground will just pull their body temperature down.”

Stearns said if pets are left outside, owners should make sure they have a reliable source of water, especially when temperatures fall low enough to freeze their normal sources of water. He said owners should increase the amount they normally feed their pets if they remain outside. In very cold weather, pets need 50 percent or more food than they normally eat just to keep their body temperatures high. And Stearns said owners should also make sure the food they give their pets doesn’t freeze.

“With dry foods, it’s not as much of a problem. But just imagine how difficult it would be for you to eat if everything you had was hard and frozen,” he said.

At the Humane Society of Northwest Georgia, volunteers brought in 13 dogs that normally stay outside into the lobby of their shelter on Cleveland Highway.

“We kept them in crates and put a little space heater in there,” said kennel manager Rita Burrows. “We already have a room for the smaller dogs, and we have a space heater in there. We normally don’t have dogs in the lobby, but we brought the larger dogs in when it got bitterly cold over the past few days to keep them from getting hurt.”

She said several volunteers have stopped at houses where they saw pets outside and asked if they could take them in.

“We had some who told us they were going to bring them inside. But we also asked if they would let us take them for a few days if they weren’t going to take them inside, and some did,” she said.

She said the society has also gotten donations of sweaters and jackets that they have put on the dogs when taking them out for walks.

“We do doggie play groups three times a day. Normally, we do 30 to 45 minutes for a play group. But in this extreme weather we did like 15 minutes,” she said.

Burrows said she has had calls from people concerned about stray cats in their neighborhoods. She said she has advised the individuals that they can cut holes in Styrofoam coolers or other containers.

“Basically, you make a little doghouse for them. Put some straw in there, and leave it out for them,” she said. “You can’t bring stray cats into your house, but I do know of people who have made this sort of shelter for them.”

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