Community Ombudsman: Vet: ‘Bring your pets inside’Written by Brandi Barhite | Community Ombudsman | firstname.lastname@example.org
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If you are cold, your pet is, too.
This reminder popped up on my Facebook (complete with sad puppy eyes) when the temperatures and wind chills plummeted below freezing. I immediately thought about the pets who live outside or who are kept outdoors for long periods of time, and I gave my pets an extra squeeze as we sat by the fireplace.
Dr. Steven Reece, my pets’ veterinarian at Anthony Wayne Animal Hospital, said fur is not enough to protect dogs and cats from the elements. If it is too cold for children to walk to school or wait at the bus stop, it is too cold for pets to be outside.
“The big issue is wind chill,” Reece said. “If it gets much below freezing, bring your pets inside. Pets cool off really fast.”
While some northern breeds have double coats and do better in the cold weather, don’t mistakenly believe their fur is enough to withstand the bitterness, Reece said. Also, the effects of smaller the breed, the quicker the exposure set in. Single-coat breeds will succumb rapidly.
“The best rule of thumb is to assume it is not going to be good and to keep your pets inside,” he said.
Reece said recent weather has been “ridiculous,” and pets should definitely be inside. If they need a bathroom break, they should be outdoors no longer than five minutes. Very small dogs like teacup poodles might have to come in sooner.
A common injury is loss of ear tips, Reece said. This is because the body diverts the blood to the chest, hence the extremities lose heat quickly. Pets are in even more danger if they get wet in the snow.
Reece, however, only sees a few weather-related injuries at his practice because people who keep their pets outside do not usually invest in regular vet visits. Sadly, he knows he isn’t seeing the worst of the outdoor neglect.
Dr. Louise Murray, vice president of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) Bergh Memorial Animal Hospital, worries about pets and the cold weather, too.
She shared a list of tips she wrote for ASPCA the website, www.aspca.org.
Murray suggested never leaving a pet in a car. A car can act as a refrigerator because it holds in the cold and can cause the animal to freeze to death.
She also advised against letting dogs off their leashes in the snow because they could lose their scent and become lost.
Another tip is to thoroughly wipe off their legs and bellies when they return indoors so they don’t ingest salt. Drying off their paw pads eliminates encrusted ice and snow, which can cause bleeding.
Reece said if pet owners do leave their animals outside too long, act quickly. First, wrap them in blankets and snuggle them. Consider using a heating blanket, but put a towel under it so it doesn’t directly touch the pet’s fur.
However, if the pet remains listless and is not acting right after a short time, go immediately to the veterinarian, Reece said.
Email Toledo Free Press Community Ombudsman Brandi Barhite at email@example.com.