Forecasted freezing temperatures can be hazardous for pets

OKLAHOMA CITY – Meteorologists are reporting that a dangerous cold front is expected later this week in Oklahoma City with high temperatures on some days dropping into the 20’s, which may stay below freezing for an entire week. 
This severe weather can be deadly for pets without a warm place to take shelter.

“Before Oklahoma experiences a deep freeze, pet owners need to make sure their pets are well-cared for as the temperature begins to fall,” said Dr. Paul DeMars, associate professor in Community Practice at Oklahoma State University’s Center for Veterinary Health Sciences.

Whenever possible, it’s best for cats and dogs to be kept indoors during the winter months,” DeMars said.
“If, for some reason this isn’t an option, pet owners must take precautions to ensure a pet’s safety when outdoors,” he said. (For more on Dr. DeMars, see: ).  

Outdoor animals need a place that is insulated and protected from the weather. It is best to face the entrance away from the wind with a flap over the doorway to keep drafts to a minimum, DeMars notes.

Structures should be waterproof and large enough for your dog to lie down. However, the smaller the area the easier it will be for the dog’s body to heat the house.

According to the ASPCA, owners also should never leave their dog or cat alone in a car during cold weather. The car can become a refrigerator in which pets can freeze to death.
Before starting and moving a vehicle, check under the hood and in the wheel wells to ensure there are no animals hiding. Cats in particular will often seek shelter and warmth there.

DeMars recommends that owners don’t cut their dog’s fur in the winter. Pets naturally develop winter coats to protect them from the harsh, cold elements. 
It is advised that when the temperature is below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, shorthaired dogs, elderly dogs and puppies should be kept indoors for their safety.

“As pretty and soft as your pet’s fur is, it isn’t necessarily the perfect insulator, especially when the temperatures are extreme or when the fur gets wet,” DeMars said. “Your pet’s toes, nose and ears are especially susceptible to winter weather, too.

“If you suspect your pet has frostbite, cover the animal with warm towels. Gently pat dry the affected area and contact your veterinarian,” DeMars said.

“While winter weather can be hard on any pet, very young animals, as well as older dogs and cats, should not be kept outdoors,” he added. “These young pets simply do not have the fat, metabolism or the full fur coat they need to stay warm.”

The best option for pet safety during the winter is to keep them indoors. 

“If your pet lives outside fulltime, a covered enclosure with blankets or clean hay/straw/cedar shavings is a must,” DeMars continued. “Another option is a heated floor mat.” 

Check with your local pet store to see what is available.

For those who enjoy walking with their pets, sidewalks and walking trails are likely to have been salted if there is ice or snow on the ground. Salt can cause irritation on an animal’s foot pads, so it is a good idea to wipe their feet following a walk outdoors.

During winter months, leaky radiators can leave pools of antifreeze in the driveway exposing pets to life threatening chemicals. The sweet taste of antifreeze can be appealing to pets, but it can be deadly, even in very small doses.

“Antifreeze is highly toxic and absorbs quickly into your pet’s system. The kidneys are the most affected organs and can shut down completely within 12 to 24 hours in cats and 36 to 72 hours in dogs,” DeMars said.
For pets who stay outside, a few extra calories will help them to keep warm. It is also important to make sure the water in their bowls doesn’t become frozen.

“Winter weather will mean your pets require a little extra care to ensure their safety,” DeMars said.