Cold weather and lots of snow brought with them unique concerns over pet safety this week.
As Lawton woke up Monday morning to more than 6 inches of snow, many pet owners wondered about the safety of their furry friends. Soon, social media posts about dogs freezing up in a kind of “snow paralysis” began to go viral.
Veterinarian Robert Bower at the Oak Ridge Animal Center confirmed that this was a very real concern.
“Indoor animals should not be out in the cold very long because they haven’t adjusted to that environment. They can have problems with their paws getting frozen. Especially with older dogs that have arthritic problems, they freeze up and become very stiff,” Bower said.
At the most, dogs who spend the bulk of their time indoors should be allowed outside for two to three minutes to go to the bathroom and should be supervised while outside, according to Bower. For outdoor animals, Bower recommends they have shelter from the wind, and hay or straw inside the shelter to stay warm.
“(Outdoor animals) need fresh food and water constantly because they will be eating twice as much in the winter and they’re going to drink a lot of water in weather like this,” Bower said.
Some dogs that are bred for colder environments, such as huskies, Saint Bernards and even some golden retrievers, may adjust to the cold and snow much quicker than other breeds and be able to stay out in the cold longer than the recommend two to three minutes.
“They still need liquid while they are out there because the air is dry so they get very thirsty, but they typically have a thicker coat and can tolerate it a lot better. Still, I wouldn’t keep them out for any longer than a half hour,” Bower said.
If an animal does suffer from frozen paws or seizes up in the cold, Bower suggested bringing them inside immediately and putting them onto a heating pad to warm them up.
“If they are wet, towel them off and do a little blow dry to get them warmed up. You can even give them a little massage to help warm them up, they’ll love that. If you have them on a heating pad make sure it is on low, any higher and it will burn them. I usually put down a heating pad, then a towel, then the dog,” Bower said.
Though Bower is a small animal veterinarian, he said the same hydration guidelines apply to livestock as well, especially if they are out in the pasture.
During bouts of extreme weather, many people often go out of their way to take care of stray animals. Bower recommends checking any outdoor vehicle before you start it to make sure no small animals have climbed into the wheel well or under the engine in search of shelter.
Additionally, Bower has a few tips for anyone looking to go the extra mile for their area strays.
“If you can make a shelter for the cats in your neighborhood, even if it’s just a cardboard box with a towel down inside of it, and put a little food and water in there for them it will help,” Bower said.
While most minor cold related symptoms can be treated with a heating pad and a blow dryer, Bower said pet owners should stay vigilant and contact their veterinarian if their pet begins to act unusual.
“If they aren’t moving, seem lethargic or just won’t do anything, get them warmed up and call the vet,” Bower said.