Keep pets safe and warm in frigid temps
The subzero temperatures in Northwest Colorado are no joke, and taking proper precautions to protect pets is vitally important to their health, according to Yampa Valley pet experts.
Perhaps the most important message veterinarians and the Humane Society want pet owners to hear is if it’s too cold for you, it’s too cold for your pet, said Routt County Humane Society shelter director Thamra Drescher.
Last weekend, Craig and Steamboat Springs experienced temperatures as low as minus 25 degrees.
“We definitely recommend keeping your pets inside,” Drescher said, noting she’s seen animals suffer from hypothermia and frostbite.
“What that looks like is missing tips of the ears or parts of the paw pads or toes,” she said. “The skin fluffs off. It’s pretty sad.”
On Sunday, a dog died from hypothermia in Craig after it escaped from its owners’ home, said Wayne Davis, the veterinarian at Craig Veterinarian Hospital.
“They brought it in, and it was practically comatose,” Davis said. “We took the temperature, and it wouldn’t even record on the thermometer.”
He said the dog had also suffered a bite from a larger dog, but it was hypothermia that led to the dog’s death.
Davis stressed the importance of making sure dogs and older horses have a place in which they can protect themselves from the wind and snow. Doghouses are a must if animals are outside in frigid temperatures, he said.
“If the dog is an outside dog, it needs some kind of shelter to get out of the wind, some kind of shelter not to get wet,” Davis said. “If your dog is shivering, he’s cold.”
Dog owners also should consider windchill while traveling with pets, Davis said.
When subzero temperatures hit, put your dogs inside the truck, not in the back of a pickup, he said.
“Yes, they have hair and they have a coat, but they also have an exposed nose,” Davis said.
According to the National Weather Service windchill chart, if it’s minus 20 degrees outside, and you’re traveling 30 miles per hour, the windchill factor is minus 53 degrees.
The type of dog certainly needs to be considered when caring for its wellbeing in the cold, said Dr. Kelly Hepworth, at Bear Creek Animal Hospital in Craig.
“There’s a lot of variables. The smaller the dog, the faster it can loose body heat,” he said.
Larger dogs, especially huskies and malamutes, can weather the cold better than a Doberman pinscher, he said.
Both Hepworth and Davis said cats also need to be cared for in the cold, but they’re more resilient in finding shelter than dogs.
“Most of the time, cats can find somewhere warm,” Hepworth said.
The Colorado Humane Society recommends that people pound on their cars and trucks before they start their vehicles in case a cat or kitten has crawled in the engine to stay warm. Also, never leave an animal inside a parked car.
“A car can act as a refrigerator, holding in the cold and causing the animal to freeze to death,” according to the Colorado Humane Society website.
Horses, especially older ones, need special care in the cold, Hepworth said.
“A good water source is critical,” he said, adding that horses need warmer water when it’s cold outside, so horse owners should have water heaters.
Give animals more food and water when it’s cold to help them thrive, Hepworth added.
Contact your local vet or Humane Society to report animal abuse.
Reach Noelle Leavitt Riley at 970-875-1790 or nriley@CraigDailyPress.com. Follow her on Twitter @noelleleavitt.
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