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Low Temps Can Lead to Illness, Death for Pets

Animal Care Network offers tips for keeping pets safe in winter weather.

Dogs need adequate shelter if they must be kept outside in cold weather. Photo credit: Animal Care Network
Dogs need adequate shelter if they must be kept outside in cold weather. Photo credit: Animal Care Network

Written by Joni Hubred-Golden

The Animal Care Network (ACN), a metro Detroit nonprofit, has issued tips for keeping pets safe as temperatures drop into the teens and single digits this week. 

Low temperatures, winds and precipitation can lead to illness, hypothermia and death. Dogs and cats can suffer from frostbite in a matter of minutes, mainly on feet, ears and tails.

Here's how you can help ensure pets stay safe:
  • Persuade anyone who keeps pets outdoors to bring them inside.
  • If kept outside, use a dog house that is not oversized, since the dog needs to retain body heat.
  • Put a wind flap on the dog house door.
  • Provide plenty of dry straw and access to fresh, unfrozen water.
  • Blankets and towels only freeze when used in a dog house.
  • Dog houses must be elevated off the ground so they don't freeze on the bottom.  
  • If animals must be kept outside, fill dog houses with clean dry straw and face away from wind.
  • Double up on food intake during cold weather. Extra weight keeps pets warmer.
  • Cats who spend time outside can freeze, get lost, injured or climb into the bottom of cars for warmth.
  • Salt and other chemicals can irritate the pads of animal's feet.
  • If you see a dog or cat in need of a help, become that animal's advocate. Speak with the owner, and if that fails to improve the situation, contact your local animal shelter, humane society or animal control office. 

The main sign of mild hypothermia in dogs in excessive shivering. A dog with hypothermia will also breathe abnormally slow, and its breathing patterns will become very shallow. The dog's heart rate will slow considerably and because of muscle stiffness, the dog may become clumsy, losing all coordination. Dogs may also appear lethargic. 

Moderate to severe hypothermia occurs when the dog's temperature falls below 95 degrees. In some cases, the dog's eyes may become very dilated and fixed, and their gums may turn very pale or bluefish in color. In extreme cases, the dog may collapse and/or enter into a coma.

Immediate treatment of hypothermia is crucial, because it can become fatal. Take the dog to a veterinarian if you suspect he has severe hypothermia or warming methods do not seem to help.

For additional information, call Pam Porteous at 248-678-2756 or visit michigananimaladoptionnetwork.org.

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