Animals in Extreme Cold

We haven't had to worry about it too much this winter, but with our sub-zero conditions this week, pet owners and agricultural producers are reminded to keep their animals in mind during the extremely cold weather.

Extreme cold weather poses all sorts of threats to animals. And the things humans do to protect themselves, like using antifreeze and salt, add more dangers for animals.

State humane veterinarian Dr. Yvonne Bellay said that “Food, water and shelter are the top priorities, but grooming and leashing are important, too.” Animal owners are reminded that outdoor pets need more good quality food in cold weather to produce body heat; and make sure your outdoor pets have fresh water daily – ice or snow will not do, because the animal has to expend too much body heat melting them. Also, outdoor animals need a dry house that’s large enough for them to stand, sit, turn around and lie down comfortably, but not so large that its normal body heat is lost. Line the bottom with dry, nonabsorbent material that won’t get wet, matted, and frozen. Animal owners are also reminded that antifreeze can be deadly to animals if ingested. Folks should also properly groom animals to ensure they have the proper coat to battle the cold; and be wary of animals – particularly cats – that sometimes crawl under cars and into the engine compartment seeking shelter and warmth. Remember, animals can suffer from hypothermia, frostbite and other cold weather injuries. Harsh conditions weaken their immune systems and open the door to illness. Calves and swine are especially susceptible to cold.

Dr. Bellay said that livestock owners need to provide extra nutrition, plenty of good bedding, and protection from winds and moisture.