As the coldest temperatures in years chill the area, the Wyandot County Humane Society is reminding area residents to keep their four-legged family members safe and comfortable with several tips to prevent injury or death due to the cold.
The frigid weather is no place for pets nor livestock, and even wildlife could use a helping hand from area residents, Humane Society shelter manager Ann Pfeiffer said.
The Humane Society of the United States suggests keeping pets indoors, except when taken out for exercise. Most dogs and all cats are safer indoors, Pfeiffer said.
No matter what the temperature, wind chill can threaten a pet’s life.
“With the temperatures we’re seeing, pets are not used to this. Nobody is,” Pfeiffer said. “Open up the garage or basement to your pet — anything to get them out of the brutal cold.”
Dogs kept outside should be protected by a dry, draft-free shelter that is large enough to allow the dog to sit and lie down comfortably, but small enough to hold in his or her body heat. The shelter should be turned to face away from the wind, with the doorway covered with a waterproof cloth or heavy plastic, according to the Humane Society.
Stray, lost and abandoned pets also can be given a hand. Shelter, food and water are important to stray and feral cats in winter, according to the Humane Society of the United States’ website. Blankets, towels and folded newspaper should not be used in animal shelters, as they absorb body heat and chill animals lying on them. The best material to use is straw, Pfeiffer said.
“With straw, the water goes under the bedding and it stays drier,” she said. “When you use blankets and the animal gets wet it freezes. It’s the same with livestock.”
Pfeiffer said pigs are especially susceptible to injury due to the cold because of their short, thin hair. Heat should be provided to pigs in livestock barns if possible during the winter, she said.
Pets that are kept outdoors need extra water because staying warm depletes energy, Pfeiffer said. Water should be routinely checked to make sure it is fresh and unfrozen. Plastic water bowls are better to use than metal so the pet’s tongue does not stick to the bowl.
The Humane Society uses heating elements in its water bowls to keep the water from freezing, Pfeiffer said.
Salt may irritate the pads of animals’ feet. Pfeiffer suggested wiping all paws with a damp towel before a pet licks them and irritates his or her mouth.
As in all times of year, the Humane Society suggests avoiding antifreeze and other chemical poisoning by wiping up spills and storing all household chemicals out of reach. Coolants and antifreeze made with propylene glycol are less toxic to pets, wildlife and humans, the organization’s website says.
Pfeiffer said possibly the best prescription for pets in winter is to keep them inside with the family.
“The happiest dogs are those taken out frequently for walks and exercise, but kept inside the rest of the time,” she said. “Dogs and cats are social animals and they crave human companionship.”
Area residents were encouraged to contact local law enforcement if they believe an animal is left outside without shelter, food or water. Pets left outside without those necessities are at risk for hypothermia, frostbite and death, according to the Humane Society.
Animal neglect is a misdemeanor in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, and Ohio is one of 41 states that requires pet owners to provide adequate shelter for outdoor pets.
Those who believe an animal may be neglected should note the date, time, exact location and type of animal involved. Video and photographic documentation of the situation will help officials investigate a case, the Humane Society says.
By ALISSA PAOLELLA