With another round of snow and sub-zero temperatures just around the corner, it’s time to get out those heavy coats and bundle up once more.
But what about our pets?
Posts on social media often have conflicting pieces of advice, which may confuse pet owners.
Some of the posts remind pet owners, “If you’re cold, they’re cold,” and implore pet owners to bring animals indoors at the first sight of snow. Other posts suggest some dog breeds feel more comfortable outside in the frigid weather and can stay out as long as they please.
To get to the bottom of the dispute, the Daily Sun spoke with Dr. Julie Knoerzer, veterinarian at Oakview Veterinary Clinic in Beatrice, about whether Facebook posts could be an accurate source of information.
“Facebook knows everything,” Knoerzer said, laughing.
It is true that some breeds are better-equipped for cold weather, she said. Arctic dogs like huskies, malamutes and St. Bernards have double coats that keep them warm when the temperature dips below freezing.
These dogs are happy to play out in the snow and cold, and come in only when they’ve had enough, Knoerzer said, but that doesn’t mean they can be outside all day and night without shelter. It’s important for a dog to have a place to go in order to get out of the wind, she said. A dog house or small shelter can help keep pets safe.
“Rather than putting blankets or bedding in a house, it's better to use layers of straw or prairie grasses,” Knoerzer said. “That acts more as an insulator. A blanket can get wet, and stay wet and get frozen. So, we're better off with a thick bed of hay and shelter from the wind.”
Small dogs and short-haired dogs should be taken out for walks or to use the bathroom, but it’s best to let them stay indoors where they can stay warm, Knoerzer said. There are many breeds that aren’t able to tolerate the cold, she said, so knowing your pet's breed is important.
“Same kind of thing for our kitties, too,” she said. “They've got thick coats. If they've got shelter and some sort of bedding that they can get away from it, for a barn cat, they do OK.”
Frostbite is another concern, she said. Since animals have fur to protect themselves, frostbite may not occur as quickly as it would to a human, but it can still happen.
It’s also important to remember pets' paws need to be protected. Just like in summer time, when the sidewalk can burn and blister paws, dogs and cats are vulnerable in the wintertime and their feet may be cut by ice on the ground.
The Humane Society also recommends cleaning your dog’s paws after a walk in the winter time. Rock salt and ice melt can irritate their paws. Some formulas are toxic, creating serious health concerns for dogs that try to lick it off. The Humane Society also recommend checking for spots of antifreeze and cleaning it up if you see it puddle. To pets, antifreeze is sweet and delicious, but it can be deadly.
For pets that do spend a lot of time outdoors during the winter, Knoerzer recommended buying a heated water bowl, a heating pad or a heat lamp, but stressed the need to use common sense when placing those items because pets and other critters may chew on electrical cords.
If you happen to see an animal left out in the cold, and it is a genuine cause for concern, the Humane Society recommends talking with the owner, if possible, before calling the authorities.
It’s also a good idea to check the engine compartment of your car before you drive because cats might crawl inside for warmth.
Knoerzer reiterated that if animals have to be outside for an extended period of time, it is necessary to provide a shelter where pets can get out of the wind and stay dry, with access to insulated bedding and fresh water. And, she said, owners must know when it’s time to bring pets inside.
“When we get that below-zero stuff, everybody needs to come in,” she said. “When we have that 20-below, they need to come in. They need to get in a garage or inside somewhere. It's too cold out there.”