With the bitter bite of winter sticking around, pet owners need to take precautions to keep their animals warm and comfortable.
The Toledo Area Humane Society, which enforces animal cruelty laws in Lucas County, is staying busy with calls about animals in the cold. The majority of calls are about dogs.
“You just have to use common sense,” Stephen Heaven, president and chief executive, said. “You obviously want to watch the temperatures. You really have to be aware of how your animal is reacting” by watching for body language indicating cold-related stress like a hunched back or lifting feet.
Keep any time spent outdoors to a minimum, and find options for indoor exercise. Be sure to place a coat on the animal and keep them out of the wind as much as possible.
“Don’t leave them out for any length of time,” Mr. Heaven said. “Their feet can freeze. It doesn’t take long for frostbite to get started.”
Ohio law requires that animals have access to unfrozen food and water and that whatever form of available shelter can guard against heat, cold, wind, rain, snow, and excessive direct sunlight. The shelter should be sized appropriately — too large and an animal’s body heat can’t warm it sufficiently — with a floor, four walls, a roof, and an opening that isn’t overly large.
Loose straw in the shelter will help the animal retain body heat, but won't hold moisture like hay, blankets, and towels. Moisture wicks heat away and will freeze, leaving a pet with an icy bed.
Mr. Heaven strongly encouraged all companion animals be brought inside.
“Even if you have a dog house with straw, it can still turn tragic,” he said. “It’s just too cold.”
Trouble signs include shivering, lethargy, pain, and unusually red, white, or black skin. Pets showing such symptoms should be brought inside to a heated area, dried off, warmed slowly, and seen by a veterinarian as needed.
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