With nighttime temperatures expected to soon dip into single digits, protection against hypothermia and frostbite should be on the minds of all pet owners.
Outdoor pets are most vulnerable when temperatures fall below 32 degrees, says Warren County Animal Control and Adoption Center director Sherri Bradley.
“It’s a misconception that outdoor animals are better equipped to handle extremes of hot and cold temperatures,” said Bradley. “Pets that live outdoors should be brought indoors during freezing temperatures. For the rest of the winter, provide them with a dry, draft-free shelter that is large enough for them to sit and lie down comfortably, but small enough to conserve body heat.”
If pets are left outside for any reason, a shelter should be provided. The shelter should be raised off the ground and its floor covered with cedar shavings or straw. Turn the shelter entrance so that it faces away from the wind and cover the doorway with waterproof material, such as heavy plastic.
“Also, pets kept outside need more food to replace energy lost from trying to stay warm,” said Bradley, who says plastic food bowls and water dishes, instead of metal, should be used. “When temperatures are below freezing, your pet’s tongue can become stuck to metal. Always use plastic bowls.”
While some dog breeds are more susceptible to cold than others, all need additional care during freezing temperatures. Dogs with short coats, thin, elderly or that are very young need more protection and limited exposure to freezing temperatures.
The potential for hypothermia and frostbite increases for pets left outdoors once the temperature hits 20 degrees, even if a shelter is provided.