Temperatures are at record lows all over the nation and, just like humans, pets can suffer severely from frigid temperatures. Every winter, dogs left outside, and other pets without adequate shelter or warmth, suffer and freeze to death while owners curl up in warm beds or sit by fireplaces in cozy homes.
People leaving their pets outside in the extremely cold winter temperatures were the subject of my January 2013 article entitled, “Pets Suffer Outside in Cold,” and W. Lafayette, Indiana, was featured for using one of the most effective methods of gaining compliance with animal-care ordinances--raising fines.
Code Enforcement Supervisor Rick Walker explained, “In West Lafayette we have an ordinance that provides for neglect of an animal, which includes leaving an animal unattended out in the extreme weather or in a vehicle.
"West Lafayette residents can be charged from $152 to $500 for leaving their pets outside, and other penalties for leaving your animals out in the cold could go even further," Walker added.
DOGS SHOULD BE OUTSIDE IN The COLD NO MORE THAN 20 MINUTES'
Indianapolis Animal Care and Control (IACC) deserves special credit this year for taking strong action against the cruelty of leaving animals out in cold weather.
“It’s not just people trying to survive in this cold weather. Pets, specifically those left outside, face similar dangers,” 24-Hour News 8 states.
IACC reports that, since Feb. 14, 2015, it has investigated 141 cases of pets left in the cold. Seventeen times the case was so severe that the animal was confiscated from the owner.
“If it’s too cold for us to be outside with a jacket or a coat and gloves and a hat, it’s too cold for your animal to be outside,” said Officer Jerry Kellems.
Officer Kellems told one owner that a dog should be outside no more than 20 minutes.
"There’s situations where animals are left tethered outside or chained outside to the point where they’ll be frozen to the ground,” he told 24-Hour News 8. “This is why I do this job because I want to help make a difference for the animals and the community itself.”
Dr. Lorraine Corriveau of Purdue’s Small Animal Hospital urges owners to keep pets inside in winter weather and tells us, "Pets suffer from hypothermia and frostbite just like we do. Allanimals, both big and small, can experience hypothermia and frostbite in the matter of minutes.”
Dr. Corriveau says the length of time before an animal is affected varies, but it doesn't necessarily have to take very long. She recommends booties for dogs for even short walks outside in freezing weather.
Dr. Corriveau also provides some warning signs that pets may be experiencing stress from the cold weather, which includes discoloration of their skin, especially those extremities on the top of their ears, their toes and the pads of their feet. When pets shiver or shake and seem more tired, it's also time to take them inside.
“Every scenario is different,” Supervisor Walker said. He urges residents to call their local police department if they notice any animals out in the cold, and he says in W. LaFayette someone from animal control will go check out the situation.
“FREEZING IS NO FUN FOR OUTSIDE DOGS”
John Andersen, DVM, in Virginia, wrote a very poignant and informative article for the Crozet Gazette, "Freezing is no Fun for Outside Dogs." Dr. Anderson believes that dogs "should not be forced to stay outside on cold winter days and nights (below 40-ish)."
"I think this is a practice that is done because 'that’s the way it’s been done,' ... or 'because they're fine.' But they’re not fine. Being cold is one of the most miserable sufferings we can have,” Dr. Anderson writes.
DOGS ARE NOT WOLVES
Dr. Anderson asks us to consider that dogs are not wolves: “The domestic dog in all of its current breeds and mixes originated from the gray wolf around 15,000 years ago. Wolves have many natural attributes that allow them to tolerate extreme cold,” he says.
“Here is a dog [the wolf] who was meant for cold weather, having many natural attributes that allow them to tolerate extreme cold. Their coats are incredibly thick, making a Labrador’s coat seem like a T-shirt. They have special circulation in their feet to keep their toes and footpads from freezing. They sleep with their long bushy tails wrapped over their noses and feet, retaining warm exhaled air which also helps to keep their feet warm. Their larger body size is efficient at generating and conserving heat.”
Dr. Anderson contrasts our current dog breeds’ ability to tolerate cold weather.
“Only a small percentage of the dogs are breeds that remain close to their wolf ancestry and are cold-weather adapted…“ “Hounds, Beagles, Pit Bulls and even Retrievers cannot tolerate cold weather,” he says.
Dr Anderson contends that it may not be likely that a night in 20-degree weather will kill them. But, he asks, “…was that a terrible night for them? Absolutely! Being cold for extended periods of time is misery.”
TIPS ON COLD WEATHER AND PETS
The following is adapted from a list by Vicki McClure Davidson for those in a cold area of Arizona. At the risk of repeating what many already know, here are reminders or this may be important information for newcomers to cold/freezing climates:
1) Keep pets inside when temperatures drop low, except for short walks and supervised exercise.
2) If your pet spends time out in the cold, it will need more food because keeping warm requires more body energy.
3) If your pet's water dish is outside, check it frequently to make sure the water is fresh and not frozen.
4) Use plastic food and water bowls outdoors. When the temperature is low, your pet's tongue can actually stick and freeze to metal bowls and containers.
5) Do not allow your pet to jump into a metal truck bed in freezing temperatures. Its pads can quickly freeze and stick to the metal and can be torn; and, if its tongue touches the metal, the same can happen.
6) Short-haired dogs [often] need a protective sweater or jacket outside in the cold.
7) Chemicals or salt used on city streets to melt snow can be drying or cause allergic reactions if a dog's bare feet are exposed to them for any length of time.
9) Snow can hide sharp-edged rocks, and other dangerous objects that your dog may step on, so check pads at the end of any outside excursion.
8) Slush, icy water, and snow, in addition to being just plain COLD, will dry out your dog's foot pads, so protect your dog's feet with some kind of waterproof dog booties when it is outside.
BE WATCHFUL FOR DOGS THAT ARE SUFFERING FROM COLD
If a dog must be left outside for any period of time in cold temperatures, be sure the there is a warm, heavy-duty dog house, elevated off the ground and large enough to allow comfortable movement but small enough to retain the body heat of the animal. Use straw as bedding. It is a natural insulator, experts say.
And, let’s hope more communities adopt enforcement programs like LaFayette, IN, where anyone leaving pets outside in extremely cold temperatures can find themselves facing some hefty fines.
Photo Credit: Provided, Mike Tungate/Flickr