Tuesday , 16 January 2018

Keeping companion animals safe during cold weather


The mercury is dropping and animals need humans to keep them safe. Short-haired dogs should be inside a home when the temperature drops to around -9C and below, according to the Michigan Humane Society.Large or thick-haired dogs should be brought indoors when the temperature falls below -17 C. The following post is part of an article written by Bonnie Dawson.  She lives in Hay River, North West Territories. She is the founder of Action for the Protection of Northern Animals and she is involved with other animal welfare groups in Canada.  As always, in case of an emergency please consider seeking professional advice as soon as possible in case your dog or cat may need it.


 Please do not tie your pet outside and leave there for the sake of house guests, and convenience, the temperatures are far too extreme.  It is a bad mistake to believe that because your cat or dog has a fur coat that they can withstand extreme cold for very long.  If left out too long, an animal’s body reacts just like that of a human. Blood is diverted from the extremities, which are the legs, tail, ears, feet; this is done so that blood is circulated to the vital organs (liver, heart, lungs and kidneys).  Deprived of blood flow, the extremities will suffer severe frostbite, which can result in the loss of limbs, ear tips, nose and tail. Footpads, their eyes, faces, nose, ears and in males their genitalia could freeze.  How often have you witnessed your own dog outside lifting one foot at a time, or just sitting down and refusing to move….that is because their foot pads are beginning to freeze and are painful…how often have you experienced the severe pain in your toes and hands due to extreme cold. That should tell you something.   If your pet is whimpering to draw your attention or scratching at the door, let them in immediately, and base the time allowed outside, by the temperature and wind chill.

Smaller animals, such as cats, should remain indoors, short-haired dogs and those without undercoat should be protected by coats/sweaters/boots when allowed outside or taken for short walks.  The BEST precaution is to use COMMON SENSE:  Rule of thumb…if it is too cold for you, and your exposed skin will freeze in minutes/seconds then it is too cold for your pet.  Leaving your cat or dog out in extremely cold temperatures could and too often results in death.  Remember not only is it illegal to transport your dog in the back of an open pickup truck, you are exposing the animal to increased wind chill, the possibility of falling out, jumping out and being dragged or strangled, flying objects such as ice, and death caused by possible multiple vehicle accidents.

Personally I have rescued an animal that jumped out of a parked truck at the Northmart in town, this small dog was dangling over the side and would have strangled in minutes. Tethering an animal in the back of an open pick up truck does nothing to guarantee its safety!!!  If you must travel with your dog using your truck use a pet carrier, which is secured firmly, or preferably place the pet inside the cab, on extremely cold days, leave the animal at home. Allowing your vehicle to idle while parked to provide warmth can also pose a danger, remember to roll down the window enough to allow poisonous carbon monoxide not to build up inside it, and to not allow the heat to build up so much that your animal could suffer heat exhaustion.

Look for signs of frostbite:  your pet is shivering, there is ice on limbs and body, body tissue has turned bright red, followed by a pale color, often turning to black which is indicative of dead tissue which will be followed by gangrene if not immediately treated medically.   If you see any of these symptoms you can immediately provide First Aid.

  1. Use towels soaked in warm water (not hot) or warmed ice packs to warm the affected area
  2. Using a warm bath or bowl of warm water to soak a frozen limb or paw
  3. Once the area has been warmed, dry the area completely and NEVER massage or rub frozen tissue.  This area will be very sensitive and painful, to prevent further self-injury caused by licking or chewing, wrap your pet in a blanket and keep warm.
  4.  NEVER apply snow or ice to the frozen area and NEVER completely immerse your pet into a bath, this would cause the body temperature to drop more and the result would be hypothermia.

Remember if your pet is showing signs of frostbite, there is the real possibility that the pet is also suffering from hypothermia (abnormal lowered body temperature), this can happen even if the animal does not show signs of frostbite and it will result in death if immediate action is not taken.

What you can do:  Body temperature is below 37.5C

  1. Using blankets, warm your pet, if using hot water bottles or an electric heating bad, DO NOT apply appliance uncovered to the pet, wrap these warming agents in towels first, if you do not it can result in burns to your pet and increase the risk of tissue damage.
  2. DO NOT overheat your pet, normal body temperature is 38.5 C; monitor your dog’s temperature using a rectal thermometer (perhaps an unpleasant task) but one that will save your pets life.  Remember to lubricate the thermometer first.
  3. SEEK VETERINARY CARE:  Even while your pet may seem to have recovered, both bladder and kidney problems are common in animals that have been hypothermic.  A pet that has suffered hypothermia and or frostbite is in danger of their life, and in the case of frostbite, severe life threatening infections in dead tissue resulting in gangrene, which can spread rapidly.


To visit Bonnie’s blog Tundra’s Voice click here

Like Bonnie’s Facebook page about LOKI, the sole surviving pup in a Northern Hoarding Case click here

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One comment

  1. Thank you for publishing Bonnie Dawson’s article. Extremely informative and I personally await the time when she actually gets the time to write her book on “Loki – Sole Survivor”. The winter is harsh on all animals and care should be taken. I do not believe animals should be left outside without shelter – I sheltered 2 kitties outside for 4 winters/summers but enticee them inside 4 years ago and they are content. Ms. Dawson’s tips in the cases of frostbite or threats of it are well noted and will be passed on to Rescue Groups.

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