Fairfield Ledger
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Neighbors Growing Together | Apr 23, 2014

Frigid temps hard on animals, too

By DAVID HOTLE | Jan 07, 2014

WASHINGTON, Iowa (GTNS) – Veterinarian Fay Vittetoe reminds pet and livestock owners their four-legged friends have much the same reaction to subzero temperatures as humans do and that care must be exercised for outdoor animals during inclement weather.

When the weather gets as cold as is has been the past few few days, Vittetoe said even such things as taking a dog for a walk or letting it into a yard for a few minutes can be dangerous. She recommends boots designed for dogs, or even children’s socks in a pinch, to protect a dog’s feet. She said dogs’ feet get wet easily, especially in the snow, and on the coldest ground — cement — can become frostbitten quickly.

“Wind chill affects animals the same way it affects humans,” Vittetoe said. “If it is cold enough for a person to get flash frostbite inside of 30 minutes, it is also cold enough for that to happen to an animal.”

Warning signs the cold maybe impacting outdoor animals include hardness in the ears or the tail. She said ears and tails are the first parts of an animal to be impacted by frostbite.

Vittetoe recommends outdoor dogs have a house covered with a thick blanket or a flap on the doorway to keep out wind. She said the house should be about the size of the dog and warned owners dogs should not have wet bedding. She also said owners should consult a vet about an animal’s diet during inclement weather.

For livestock, Vittetoe said in some cases animals should be kept inside of a barn with a windbreak. Animals like horses should have blankets. She said owners should be sure to knock snow buildup out of horses’ hooves.

In some cases, keeping animals in a barn can be dangerous, Vittetoe said. She said steam build-up caused by animal respiration can cause the animals to become wet and for frost to build up. She said water conducts cold about 100 times more easily than air.

She said drinking water heaters for livestock should be monitored two or three times daily. Ears and tails should be monitored for frostbite and the animals should have dry, fluffy bedding. She said water is important for the animal to regulate its body temperature and livestock should get about a gallon of water per 100 pounds of body weight per day.

Vittetoe reminds owners warm water freezes more quickly than room temperature water.

Another concern, Vittetoe said, is when animals are transported. She said if animals are transported in open trailers, they will experience increased wind chill based on how fast the vehicle is going. She recommends enclosed trailers for transport.

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