The Times West Virginian

January 1, 2014

Pets need protection during cold weather

Proper shelter is among necessities

By Kristen Talerico
Times West Virginian

FAIRMONT — Pets are often known throughout the world as “the most loyal companion,” but during these chilly winter months, some are often left outside in freezing temperatures.

While the Marion County Humane Society suggests that all pets should be kept indoors, this isn’t always an option.

If you are going to keep your pet outside for any period of time during the winter months, there are a few tips that Amanda Allenby, the manager at the humane society, wants owners to be aware of.

• Change food and water multiple times in a day, because it can freeze easily.

• Have a proper dog house made out of plastic or wood.

• Use straw as a bed.

• Avoid blankets.

• If the temperature drops below 20 degrees, bring animals inside.

• Animals, like humans, will shiver when they are cold.

“Hypothermia can be a huge problem with animals that are kept outdoors during the winter months, and pets get cold just like humans,” Allenby said.

Duane Hawkinberry, humane/animal control officer, believes “a lot of people are ignorant toward their pets in this county.

“West Virginia does not have very strict laws on animal control,” he explained. “You just have to make sure pets receive the right shelter if they are being kept outside”

Although pets can sometimes be stubborn and try to avoid their houses, Hawkinberry said to “keep trying and be smart.”

Longer-haired breeds of animals are more likely to adapt to their surroundings. Hawkinberry used the huskies in Alaska as an example and said “these animals are out in sub-zero temperatures for long periods of time and continue to function normally.”

On the contrary he said, “Shorter-haired animals should not be left outside for an extended period of time.”

Hawkinberry mentioned that “some people would be amazed at what kind of heat a 10-watt light bulb puts out.”

This is a simple solution to adding some sort of warmth in an outside environment, he explained.

Heated beds are new and an alternative to keeping your pet warm, but Tom Austin, D.V.M, at Grace Animal Hospital in Bridgeport, said that “heated beds can cause serious burns on animals, especially if they get wet.”

A lot of animals, cats specifically, will seek any type of heat to stay warm. Austin reminds pet owners to “check under their car hoods before starting the vehicle, because animals will crawl up there to stay warm.”

Serious injury may occur if the car is started while the animal is still under the hood, he explained.

Another risk to outdoor animals during the winter months is antifreeze leaking from cars.

“Antifreeze has a sweeter taste and attracts animals, but is very toxic,” Austin said.

While the winter months do not last long, it is always important to remember “the cold weather can be a huge stress and burden on animals, causing them to be more susceptible to infections” Austin said.

Email Kristen Talerico at ktalerico@timeswv.com or follow her on Twitter @KTalericoTWV.