How to protect pets in unseasonably cold weather

Temperatures in the 30s could create unsafe conditions for outdoor pets

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – It might be spring in Portland, but a rare April snowstorm makes it feel more like January. With the unseasonable, winter weather Monday, some pet owners may have been caught off guard.

The Oregon Humane Society reminds people that even though it’s April, when snow starts falling and the low temperatures drop to the 30s, they need to take measures to keep their pets safe and warm.

When the temperature reaches 30 degrees, OHS says pets should be kept indoors. Temperatures this low could pose several dangers to pets including injury, frostbite and disorientation.

Dogs and cats can get frostbite on sensitive tissues, like their ears, nose and feet if they’re left outside.

The amount of time pets spend outside should be limited, especially if they have a short coat and are sensitive to cold weather. Pet owners should consider getting a coat if they own a pet with short fur.

To protect pets’ paws from the cold, OHS says owners can massage petroleum jelly or other paw protectants into the pads of their feet before going outside. Booties can provide more coverage and prevent sand and salt from getting lodged between their toes.

Owners should wipe off their pets’ feet when they come inside to make sure they don’t lick them off and accidentally ingest things like road salt and antifreeze.

One way people can increase traction on their sidewalks, for both humans and pets, is to sprinkle unscented cat litter on the ground.

It’s important to keep dogs on a leash during walks in the snow, OHS says. That’s because they can easily lose scent when the ground is covered and become lost.

Owners are reminded to watch out for antifreeze leaking from vehicles and to clean up any spills from their own vehicles.

Remember, pets should not be left inside a vehicle in cold weather.

“A car can act as a refrigerator, causing the animal to develop hypothermia or freeze to death,” OHS states on its website.

Ahead of a snow storm in December 2021, KOIN 6 News spoke to DoveLewis Chief Medical Officer Shana O’Marra about how to keep pets safe. She explained how to identify hypothermia in pets.

“Danger signs to watch for in any animal – hypothermia can be really subtle. Things that you’re looking for are lethargy, if they’re not interactive,” she said. “If they’re walking slowly while you’re out on a walk with them, or they just don’t have their usual personality, that’s a sign that you should go inside, warm up and do what you can to return to a more normal environment.”

For people who care for feral cats outdoors, OHS says people should use plastic food and water bowls rather than metal when temperatures drop to near-freezing. There should also be warm, elevated and heated spaces the cats can go to find shelter.

Outdoor animals also need more calories when it’s cold to produce body heat, so it’s OK to give them extra food on chilly days.

The American Veterinarian Association says cold weather could worsen some medical conditions in animals, such as arthritis.

“Pets with diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, or hormonal imbalances (such as Cushing’s disease) may have a harder time regulating their body temperature and may be more susceptible to problems from temperature extremes,” the organization said on its website.

As for livestock, Multnomah County Animal Services says they need protection from the cold too. It’s important they have some sort of shelter to protect themselves from the elements and dry bedding to help them stay warm.

While the temperature in most parts of the Portland metro area should remain above freezing in the next week, it will be important for owners to check to make sure that their outdoor animals’ water sources are not frozen over.

The Oregon Humane Society’s website has more information on keeping pets safe in cold weather.

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