Cold temps dangerous for outdoor animals, too

Tuesday, February 6, 2007
Walnut Creek Fire Protection District breaks ground on a new fire station for Clinton Township on County Road 450 North, next to the VanBibber Lake Conservancy Building. Participating in the groundbreaking are (from left) architect Ric Battershell, Jack Rahn of Rahn Construction Inc., Jim Rahn of Rahn Construction, district member Jay Unger, Rodger Winger from Tri County Bank, district president Jim Hillburn, district member Robert Hensley, VanBibber Lake Fire Chief Adam Roach, state rep. Amos Thomas, Jerry Thatcher, Brent McColgin from Tri County Bank, Charlie Boller, Robert Vandagrift and Jason Hartman.

No matter how long you've lived in Indiana, it would be hard to argue against the fact that it's been downright frigid lately.

And with weather forecasters predicting possibly a half foot of snow by this evening, temperatures may continue to fall short of the freezing mark for many days to come.

This morning the mercury dropped to near zero, or slightly below, for the third time in as many days.

While it's important for people to bundle up when they go outside in weather like this, animal experts are reminding pet owners to remember their dogs and cats as well.

Tammie Gardner, manager of the Humane Society of Putnam County, said the most important thing for pet owners to remember is to keep fresh water available for their dogs and cats that live outside.

"We lose more animals to a lack of water than we do for anything else," Gardner said.

She urges owners to provide fresh water for their animals three or four times a day, especially when the temperature is below freezing.

"Watering your dog or cat once a day is not acceptable in weather like this," Gardner said.

A common misconception among pet owners is that if they put warm water out for their animals, it will not freeze as fast.

Gardner says that's not true.

"Warm water freezes faster," she said.

Another essential element to making sure your dog or cat survives this arctic blast is to build them a shelter, such as a dog house. Animals need a place they can go to escape the wind and a bed of straw where they can nestle down to sleep, Gardner said.

An ample supply of food is also vital to keeping your pet healthy and strong during the cold winter months.

If at all possible, Gardner suggests bringing your dog or cat inside the house during extreme cold weather events.

At the Humane Society shelter, animals are kept inside when the temperature falls below the 30-degree range, except for daily walks outside. Only when the weather warms back up will they be allowed to return to their outside kennels.

Another thing to watch for with an outside pet this time of year is their feet.

Gardner said the pads of their feet will actually stick to the ice or snow and when the animal walks, their pads will tear and begin to bleed. Proper care should be taken to cleanse these places to prevent infection.

The American Society to Prevent Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) suggests a number of hints to caring for animals in the winter on its website

They suggest not allowing a dog off its leash when there is snow on the ground because the animal can lose its scent and become lost.

They also suggest cleaning a dog's feet and stomach after being outside in the snow due to a danger of them picking up antifreeze, salt or other winter chemicals on the ground.

Also the ASPCA suggests that owners should not leave their animals in a car during the winter because the vehicle can act like a refrigerator and freeze the animal to death.

Unfortunately some animals don't receive any care this time of year and will need a place like the Humane Society to provide help.

Gardner said the shelter sees a significant increase in the number of animals surrendered this time of year. She said people will see a dog roaming around with no one to care for it and will call the shelter.

In those instances, the Humane Society will care for the animal at the shelter until someone is able to adopt it. Right now the shelter is fairly full, Gardner said, but residents should not hesitate to call.

To surrender an animal, call the Humane Society at 653-5739 to set up an appointment.

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