Mineral Wells Index, Mineral Wells, TX

January 10, 2014

Don’t forget your pets: Cold weather brings safety hazards


Mineral Wells Index

— By TYLER MASK



Although some people can’t stand the cold, while others absolutely love it, extreme weather conditions can present safety hazards for us all, including our pets. Whether you take your pets outdoors for some routine exercises or your pets live outside, there are precautions everyone should take.

It’s no secret that cold weather can be a hardship on animals, but just how serious can it be? Despite our four-legged friends having a furry coat, which some may feel is sufficient protection, the truth is that most pets are not made to endure the cold.

When asked at what temperature pet owners should start taking precautions, Dr. Tad Jarrett of Brazos Animal Hospital said, “Anything below 50 degrees is going to cause stress to the animals. Of course, it [also] depends on their hair coat and body mass.”

Shelter is a key thing to remember. “The thing about extreme weather is keeping them dry and keeping them out of the wind,” Jarrett said. If pets must be left outside for extended periods of time, Jarrett suggests they have an air-tight shelter that is free of wind draft and moisture.

Homemade houses that are well built and have a flap covering the door or igloo shaped dog houses with proper insulation and carpeting are two options Jarrett considers sufficient for outside pets. However, Jarrett also recommends that owners bring pets in when things get too cold.

Hydration is another key thing to remember. If the temperature is below freezing, owners should monitor their pet’s water source often. In closing, Jarrett said, “Most dogs need to be brought in if the water is freezing.”

And he greatly emphasized “need.”

According to the American Animal Hospital Association, here’s a list of some other key things to remember:

• Keep your pets inside when temperatures drop below conditions you are comfortable with. Rule of thumb is if it’s too cold for you, it’s too cold for your pets.

• Schedule a check-up for your pets before winter arrives, as certain medical problems can negatively affect how your pet handles the cold. Heart disease, diabetes and hormonal imbalances are examples of conditions that can prevent your pets from having proper control of their body heat. Age also affects how your animals handle the weather.

• Keep an eye on your cat. Cats are prone to find nearly anyplace they can to stay warm, even car engines. Therefore, always check your car before turning the ignition. Beyond car engines, always watch for pets around any electrically heated area or fire, as any pet can succumb to burns or even cause hazards for the entire household.

• Always check your pet’s paws after venturing outside, as they can gather salt, ice and chemical ice that could not only chap and damage their paws, but damage their insides if they lick their paws.

• Put a sweater on Fido - if he is willing. Although pets tend to lose body heat from their feet pads, ears and respiratory tract, anything helps.

It is true that no two pets are alike, and that not all pets will respond the same to extreme weather conditions.

According to Jarrett, the biggest factors to keep in mind are breed, size, age and medical conditions. If you have a small, old, arthritic Chihuahua, always exercise caution when letting him go outside in the cold. If you have a massive Husky in the prime of her life, you will not have to worry when she runs around in the snow like it’s Christmas. Nevertheless, always use good judgment and contact a professional when you have any concerns regarding the safety and health of your animals.