Animals and winter
BOB MILLER/TIMES NEWS Bailey, a 6-year-old Saint Bernard, may have a lot of fun playing in the snow, but he, along with all animals need to have the proper care and shelter to survive in frigid temperatures. Be sure to take the necessary precautions to make sure your animal stays safe this winter.
With winter here, pets need proper care to survive the freezing temperatures and harsh winter elements.
Donna Crum, Carbon County Animal Cruelty officer and coordinator for the County Animal Response Team (CART), reminds pet owners to make sure any animals that live or spend long periods of time outside have fresh water and food at all times, as well as proper shelter and bedding to keep them warm.
"You have to realize that you have to be proactive with your animals to keep them healthy," she said, adding that any animal, whether it is an indoor or outdoor animal, needs the proper care to stay safe during the winter. "Imagine being outside 24 hours a day."
Kimmy Mulik, vice president of Carbon County Friends of Animals and a member of the Carbon CART, added that "If it's too cold for you to be outside, it's too cold for your animal."
Crum gave the following descriptions of proper supplies for animals when outdoors.
• Shelter: Coops and kennels need to be structurally sound and should have at least three solid sides to help block wind, snow and rain. Vari kennels or pet carriers are not acceptable forms of shelter because they do not give the protection that is needed in frigid temperatures. Makeshift shelters, such as cardboard boxes with straw or blankets, can also be placed under stairways to help cats or other small animals that typically don't use kennels.
According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals website, cats should remain inside if possible because they can easily get lost, injured or killed if outside in wintery conditions without proper shelter. Cats tend to find warm places and recently turned off car engines seem very inviting to these felines, which can be dangerous.
• Bedding: Crum recommends that pet owners use straw as bedding in dog coops because it provides more warmth than other types of bedding. She also said blankets will work but they do freeze, so check them often. For all bedding, no matter the type, change it on a regular basis because if it gets wet from snow, rain or urine, it can freeze quickly.
• Exercise: Animals that are outdoors need exercise to keep their blood flowing properly. Crum said pet owners should walk outdoor animals to help them stay warm because their body temperature can drop quickly and cause hypothermia. She also reminds people that breathing bitter cold air can cause a buildup of moisture in the animal's lungs and cause respiratory problems or pneumonia. These problems can occur quickly in cold temperatures, but it can happen quicker, depending on the animal's health, age and the type of animal.
After animals are walked, remember to wipe off their paws because ice melting materials can be poisonous to the animal and cause illness or irritation.
• Nutrition: There should always be fresh water and food available to the animal, meaning that pet owners should check and refill supplies numerous times a day. Water and dog and cat food will freeze if not eaten or drank quick enough.
Crum said that she has seen dogs with paw injuries because as the water freezes, they will try to break through the ice to get to fresh water.
Animals also need more food if they are outside because it helps provide energy, which is needed to stay warm and healthy.
If the animals show signs of being sick, such as a runny nose, shivering, rumbling in their chest, or their skin doesn't flatten immediately to their body after being touched or pinched, make sure to get them to a veterinarian to get checked and treated immediately.
If these measures are not followed, pet owners can be cited by officials for animal cruelty.
Crum said that there are people and police checking to see if outdoor animals have the proper necessities to survive.
For more information on caring for your animal during the winter, visit the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals article on pets and winter on its website at http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/pet-care-tips/cold-weather-tips.aspx