Keep them warm when temp drops

Temperatures in the area have already dipped into single digits and are expected to rise no more than a few degrees this week, according to the National Weather Service forecast, and animal owners should take appropriate action.

According to the laws of Pennsylvania relating to the protection of animals from cruelty, animal owners are required to provide a clean and sanitary shelter which will protect the animal from inclement weather and preserve the animal’s body heat. In addition, the structure should ensure the animal is kept dry, provided with adequate sustenance and drink, and veterinary care if needed.

Karen Kolos, executive director of Paws Along the River, provided the following tips for cold-weather care of animals:

Provide straw rather than a blanket. Animals will track snow onto the blanket which will in turn melt from its body heat and cause the blanket to freeze whereas straw absorbs the moisture and provides more adequate bedding.

Be aware of cats. In cold weather, cats will often climb inside cars and nap on the engines for warmth. Before starting your vehicle, knock on the hood and honk the horn to prevent death or serious injury caused by the engine belt.

Wipe animals down immediately upon entering your home after walking outside. Salt, antifreeze, and other hazardous chemicals can be ingested when the animal licks its paws. The chemicals combined with snow or encrusted ice can also cause a dog’s paws to bleed.

Animals are not immune to frostbite. Be sure to remove snow and ice from your pet’s paws and coat to prevent frostbite. Symptoms include reddish, white or gray, scaly or sloughing skin. If frostbite does set in, thaw the affected area slowly by applying warm, moist towels that are changed frequently. Contact your veternarian immediately to evaluate the severity of the situation.

Never leave your pet in a vehicle. Cars can act as a refrigerator in the winter, holding in the cold and cause the animal to freeze to death.

Young and elderly as well as underweight animals are especially sensitive to cold weather. If necessary, owners may opt to paper-train young animals inside or only take them out when the animal needs to relieve itself.

Even large animals such as cows and horses are affected by cold weather. They need access to a three-sided structure that provides shelter from the elements.

Even though the snow provides an environment in which many animals love to play, owners need to be aware of their animals and ensure that they are properly tended. If a pet seems lethargic or has any health issues, contact a veternarian.

Anyone with questions can reference information on the Paws Along the River website by clicking ‘resources’ and ‘safe winter’ on the home page.