CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – As temperatures in the Lowcountry are expected to dip into the low 20’s this week, the Charleston Animal Society is reminding pet and livestock owners to make sure animals are equipped to stay warm.
According to the American Veterinarian Medical Association (AVMA) knowing your animal is crucial to keeping them safe. Cold tolerance varies from animal to animal, so owners should adjust accordingly. While a full-grown husky might enjoy spending an hour outside in the cold weather, smaller breeds, puppies, and older dogs are much less tolerant. Walks should be shortened and cold gear may be necessary.
Even after short walks, paws should be checked for ice/frost as well as remnants of deicers or antifreeze, which are toxic to animals. AMVA recommends wiping down the animal’s paws, legs, and belly after being outdoors.
Pets that typically sleep outside should be brought inside. Although the animals may not like the change, spending an extended period of time outside, especially when temperatures drop overnight, could result in frostbite or hypothermia.
Owners who are unable to bring their pets inside should provide options for warm shelter from the cold and wind. The shelter should be elevated off of the ground and bedding should be thick, dry, and warm. Pets should have access to fresh, non-frozen food and water. Space heaters should not be used as they pose a fire risk.
Stray cats often seek shelter in car engines or pipes, so make noise by banging on the car, or check the engine and pipes before starting the car.
Noticing changes in behavior can also be crucial to preventing cold-related illnesses or injuries in pets. “If your pet is whining, shivering, seems anxious, slows down or stops moving, seems weak, or starts looking for warm places to burrow, get them back inside quickly because they are showing signs of hypothermia,” according to the AMVA.
Livestock should also have a warm, dry place to take shelter from the cold. While they are generally more tolerant of cold weather, extremely low temperatures can still be dangerous. The AMVA said that “a structural shelter with proper ventilation and dry bedding is the best method of protection.”
Horses can benefit from blankets as well, but owners should frequently check horses for signs of injury, infection, or malnutrition, according to the AMVA.
Owners should also monitor to ensure animals have access to good food and water. The AMVA suggests speaking to a vet about potentially changing feeding schedules in the winter as animals expend energy to keep warm. Water should be kept at a temperature animals enjoy drinking, as “livestock will not consume adequate amounts of water if it is near freezing.”
Vets should be consulted about any changes in behavior or potential concerns.