Archive for Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Chilling out not healthy for pets

Fur coat not enough to protect dogs, cats in frigid conditions

January 18, 2005


Joan Silver has no concerns about how her cats and dogs deal with the brutally cold weather. Her pets stay inside year-round.

"But I do worry about dogs that I see outside or hear outside when the weather is cold," Silver said while walking her 12-year-old dog, Mr. Paws, Monday afternoon near South Park. "You just have to hope the owners are responsible."

The cold weather can be deadly for some pets.

Some feral cats had to be euthanized last week at the Lawrence Humane Society, in part because of frostbite on their ears and noses.

Midge Grinstead, director of the humane society, said her office took about 40 calls last week regarding animals in need of care, most involving animals left out in the cold weather.

"A lot of people think because of their fur coats that animals are made for this weather, but they're not," Grinstead said.

Lawrence veterinarian John Bradley said when the temperature dropped below 20 degrees, family pets that spent most of their time outside should be brought into the house, or at least the garage.

"If you can do it safely, a garage is a good halfway point as a place for your animals to stay if it's cold outside," Bradley said. "But you need to have them in a kennel or a pet taxi so they won't get into chemicals that may be stored in the garage."

People bringing their outdoor dogs into the house may want to consider purchasing baby gates and keeping their animals in rooms with vinyl floors, Bradley said.

Rusty, who lives with his owner, Sam Hall, in North Lawrence, has a
cozy dog house to keep him warm in the winter. Rusty's house is
lined with straw to help keep out the cold.

Rusty, who lives with his owner, Sam Hall, in North Lawrence, has a cozy dog house to keep him warm in the winter. Rusty's house is lined with straw to help keep out the cold.

It's also important to make sure outdoor animals receive enough food and water, Bradley said. Warm, dry bedding also is a must.

"Water is as important in the winter as it is in the summer," he said. "The air is more dry in the winter, and the humidity is lower. Setting a bowl of water out once a day is not adequate. It has to be changed during the day, or you need to have a heated water bowl."

Outdoor pets also should have some sort of shelter from inclement weather. Bradley said doghouses with ground-level openings on the south side were ideal.

Similar guidelines apply to cats.

"My general guideline or opinion is that cats should be indoors anyway," Bradley said. "That way they won't get hit by a car or be at risk for feline leukemia."

But he said if people kept their cats outdoors, it's best to place cardboard boxes with blankets and straw near their house. Cats don't like to use confining structures, which prevent them from seeing predators.

Pets, like humans, need to stay warm.

"It's just like with us," Grinstead said. "We're cold in below-freezing temperatures without gloves or a hat. It's the same for animals."

Temperatures are expected to be in the 40s this week -- higher than the past few weeks -- but pet owners still can ensure their animals stay warm by:¢ Making sure they freshen animals' water several times a day or investing in a heated water bowl.¢ Providing extra food for animals. The extra body fat can help keep pets warm.¢ Giving pets good outdoor shelter to protect against wind. The best shelters will have an opening facing the south, because wind generally will come out of the north, and be on the ground. If an animal's shelter is on stilts or off the ground, put straw bales around the base.¢ Providing warm, dry bedding, such as straw and blankets. If an animal is in a concrete kennel, make sure there is straw or other ground cover because prolonged exposure to a cold surface could cause frostbite.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.