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Protect the pets

Pets may be at peril in frigid weather

By Teresa Wood Daily Freeman-Journal Correspondent

POSTED: January 6, 2010

Article Photos

Veterinarian Richard Stribe examines the paws of one of his patients. He urges pet owners to take special care with animals during severe winter weather.

Man isn't the only animal at risk during this arctic weather.

To protect your pet, it is best to follow some guidelines suggested by a local veterinarian and the America Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

According to Dr. Richard Stribe, DVM, of the Webster City Veterinary Clinic, unless a dog has long hair, it is best to keep it indoors during cold weather. When the mercury dips below -15 degrees `all pets should be brought indoors or housed on a enclosed porch.

Dogs that were bred for such a climate, such as a Husky, can tolerate the cold but other breeds cannot, said Stribe. Especially at risk are short-haired canines such as short-haired sporting dogs, terriers and


Any outdoor pet housing in subzero temperatures should be an enclosed, insulated structure just large enough for the animal to move around in. It should also have a small door to keep drafts to a minimum. The structure should also have plenty of bedding, said Stribe.

Animals are subject to frostbite, just like humans, although, Stribe said he has only treated one case of frostbite in a dog.

More importantly, there are two other factors which pose a greater threat to pets during freezing weather, he said.

First, all animals need plenty of fresh water available at all times.

"An outdoor animal should have a heated water source," said Stribe. Keeping a pet hydrated can't be emphasized enough because besides the freezing temperatures harming the animal, dehydration is a life-threatening factor, he said.

"I find the most common threat to animals during cold weather is dehydration," said Stribe. A dehydrated animal will have difficulty instanding up, he said.

"When it has gone that far, it is very hard to bring them back," Stribe said.

Stribe also empathized that although snow can substitute for water temporarily, it is not a satisfactory water source as it lowers the animal's body core temperature.

Making sure a pet has plenty of nourishment during the winter months is

the second factor in maintaining pet health during these freezing months.An outdoor animal requires more calories in order to keep its metabolism upand to maintain its proper body weight.

"People need to use good judgment and common sense when dealing with animals during the cold weather," said Stribe.

It is also important to remember that cold weather can have an accumulative effect on an animal, he said.

"This is one of the coldest stretches I can remember," said Stribe."There is a danger when it is cold for a long, long time.

"When it is just overnight and there is a cold snap, say for two days, a dog will turn around and be okay," he explained. "But when it lasts longer, like what is happening now, it gets more serious."

Pet owners should monitor their animals and watch for signs of distress, said Stribe. Signs of distress include lack of appetite, shivering, lethargy and the most obvious is a pet not getting up to greet its owner. Pets exhibiting these symptoms need to been seen by a professional immediately, he said.

Cats also need special attention during the cold weather, said Stribe. Felines not kept indoors should have shelter from the wind and cold, such as in a shed or garage.

Feral cats are especially at risk, he said. During the warmer months, the wild felines are fed by animal lovers but during the winter months, they also need shelter.

"Cold weather is the nemesis of feral cats," Stribe said.

Additional guidelines have been issued by the ASPCA for pet care during cold weather. These guidelines include:

Keep a dog on the leash in snowy, icy or blizzard conditions because a dog can lose their scent and become easily lost. Make sure your animal has ID tags when outdoors.

Clean paws after a trip outdoors to prevent the ingestion of salt or antifreeze.

Never shave an animal's coat down to the skin in the winter as the longer coat provides warmth. Consider getting a coat or sweaters for a short-haired dog during the winter. Also if you must bathe your pet, make sure it is completely dry before taking him outside.

Don't leave a pet in a vehicle during cold weather. A car in the summer turns into an oven but a car in the winter becomes a refrigerator that holds in the cold and can cause an animal to freeze to death.

Puppies do not tolerate the cold as well as adult dogs and may be difficult to housebreak during the winter. Consider paper-training him inside. Also, dogs that are old, ill or a breed that is susceptible to the cold should be taken out only to relieve himself.

.Bang on your vehicle before starting the engine during cold weather. Outdoor cats sometimes seek shelter under the hood of a car and can be injured or killed when a motor is started.

Contact Teresa Wood at or call 832-4350.

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