By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter
Meteorologists say that a dangerous cold front is expected this weekend in Oklahoma City sending temperatures into to the single digits, which can be deadly for pets without a warm place to take shelter.
“While making adjustments to keep yourself warm, it is vital to do the same for your pets,” said Dr. Elisabeth Giedt, director of Continuing Education, Extension and Community Engagement at the Center for Veterinary Health Sciences at Oklahoma State University.
“Your pets are 100 percent dependent on their owners for proper care. As you change your routine to meet the demands of cold weather, your pets must get the same from you,” Giedt said.
“Whenever possible, it’s best for cats and dogs to be kept indoors during the winter months. If, for some reason this isn’t an option, pet owners must make sure to take precautions to ensure a pet’s safety when outdoors.”
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.
Structures should be waterproof and large enough for your dog to lie down. However, keep in mind the smaller the area the easier it will be for the dog’s body to heat the house.
Clean hay, straw, cedar shavings or blankets should be placed in the doghouse for added warmth and comfort. A pet’s fur also is a factor in keeping an animal warm in the cold weather. Keep the dog’s coat well groomed, as matted fur will not keep your pet warm.
“When the temperature is below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, shorthaired dogs, elderly dogs and puppies should be kept indoors for their safety,” she said. “Paws, ears and tails are most susceptible to frostbite.
People are becoming more conscious about not leaving pets in the car during periods of extreme heat, but 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.
“The skin of an animal suffering with frostbite may initially appear bright red, and then turn a pale color. If you suspect frostbite, cover your pet with warm towels, gently pat the affected area dry (do not rub the area) and take the pet to your veterinarian,” Giedt said.
Cats and other wild animals that live outdoors may seek warmth by crawling into car engines or wheel wells. It is a good idea to hit or bang on the car’s hood or sound the horn before starting the engine so the animal will have time to escape from what could be a traumatic situation.
Giedt said it is not just the cold weather that can be hazardous to your pets in the winter. People commonly change their car’s antifreeze in the winter months and some antifreeze contains ethylene glycol, which is toxic.
Pets like the sweet taste of antifreeze. Even a small amount is poisonous, so contact your veterinarian immediately if you suspect your pet has ingested antifreeze.
“The signs of antifreeze poisoning include staggering and appearing depressed or acting drunk,” she said. “These symptoms can last up to 12 hours, and it may even appear your pet is getting better.
“However, within 24 hours there will be prolonged vomiting, severe kidney pain, mouth and throat ulcers and ultimately the toxin will kill the pet. It’s imperative antifreeze spills get cleaned up right away. Be sure to store containers of antifreeze in sealed containers where children and pets can’t reach it.”
Giedt notes that owners should always keep clean water available and to check outdoor water bowls several times each day to refill or thaw them.
“Just as you take extra precautions with your family during the winter months, do the same for your pet to ensure it stays safe and healthy during this cold season,” v said.
To find lost pets or more information, visit okc.gov/animalwelfare.