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Domestic pets, livestock and the bitter cold

Domestic pets, livestock and the bitter cold
By Dave Lueneberg
By Dave Lueneberg
January 9, 2024
January 9, 2024
Pincher Creek veterinarian provides suggestions to keep livestock and pets safe ahead of deep freeze in southern Alberta.
Pincher Creek veterinarian provides suggestions to keep livestock and pets safe ahead of deep freeze in southern Alberta.
IMAGE: Shannon Peace
IMAGE: Shannon Peace

With the first real cold snap of the season, many of us are preparing ourselves for the pending frigid temperatures. But what about our pets and livestock?

With temperatures forecast to bottom out at -36 C Thursday night and -32 Friday, without potential winds factored in, extended exposure could be downright dangerous.

At that threshold, Dr. Amanda Elliott of Country Vets in Pincher Creek believes pets should really be indoors.

“They can go outside to do their business but then, for sure, back in the house,” she recommends.

“There are some livestock guardian dogs that will be a little more acclimatized to that type of weather with their thick fur coats, but they still require shelter. They still need a really warm bed and extremely important: a non-frozen water source.”

 

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Like their owners, pets are prone to frostbite on their extremities, especially if they spend the majority of their time indoors and haven’t built up a resistance to the cold outdoors.

“The first thing that will usually freeze are the ear tips, tail tips and their paws,” Dr. Elliott points out. Pet owners should watch for signs of ears drooping or flopping over.

While on a human, signs might show after a few hours, it might take a couple of days on an animal. Cold limbs are also a tell-tale sign, she adds. A pale-coloured paw pad is another good indicator.

As for horses and livestock, Dr. Elliott suggests much of the same — protection from wind and bitterly cold wind chills, but also an increase in their food intake. At temperatures below -8, more energy is required for warmth, which can be made readily available with an ample supply of hay.

She also notes the importance of providing shelter, windbreaks and bedding animals down to protect them from the frozen ground. A supply of fresh, unfrozen water is also needed.

 

 

For dogs and cats, the Alberta SPCA has a list of cold-weather recommendations to consider, including two points that might not always be top of mind.

First, wash the pads of their paws. Pets that go outside can pick up rock salt, ice and chemicals on their pads. After a walk, wipe your pet’s paws with a washcloth. This will keep its pads from getting chapped and will prevent inflammation of the digestive tract that may result from licking the salt.

Second, practise caution before starting your car. Cats and small wildlife searching for warmth may curl up inside a vehicle’s engine compartment. Before you turn your engine on, consider honking the horn or knocking on the hood to scare them away.

More tips can be found here.

 

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With the first real cold snap of the season, many of us are preparing ourselves for the pending frigid temperatures. But what about our pets and livestock?

With temperatures forecast to bottom out at -36 C Thursday night and -32 Friday, without potential winds factored in, extended exposure could be downright dangerous.

At that threshold, Dr. Amanda Elliott of Country Vets in Pincher Creek believes pets should really be indoors.

“They can go outside to do their business but then, for sure, back in the house,” she recommends.

“There are some livestock guardian dogs that will be a little more acclimatized to that type of weather with their thick fur coats, but they still require shelter. They still need a really warm bed and extremely important: a non-frozen water source.”

 

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Like their owners, pets are prone to frostbite on their extremities, especially if they spend the majority of their time indoors and haven’t built up a resistance to the cold outdoors.

“The first thing that will usually freeze are the ear tips, tail tips and their paws,” Dr. Elliott points out. Pet owners should watch for signs of ears drooping or flopping over.

While on a human, signs might show after a few hours, it might take a couple of days on an animal. Cold limbs are also a tell-tale sign, she adds. A pale-coloured paw pad is another good indicator.

As for horses and livestock, Dr. Elliott suggests much of the same — protection from wind and bitterly cold wind chills, but also an increase in their food intake. At temperatures below -8, more energy is required for warmth, which can be made readily available with an ample supply of hay.

She also notes the importance of providing shelter, windbreaks and bedding animals down to protect them from the frozen ground. A supply of fresh, unfrozen water is also needed.

 

 

For dogs and cats, the Alberta SPCA has a list of cold-weather recommendations to consider, including two points that might not always be top of mind.

First, wash the pads of their paws. Pets that go outside can pick up rock salt, ice and chemicals on their pads. After a walk, wipe your pet’s paws with a washcloth. This will keep its pads from getting chapped and will prevent inflammation of the digestive tract that may result from licking the salt.

Second, practise caution before starting your car. Cats and small wildlife searching for warmth may curl up inside a vehicle’s engine compartment. Before you turn your engine on, consider honking the horn or knocking on the hood to scare them away.

More tips can be found here.

 

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