Frigid temperatures could cause dangerous situations for pets

mmorgan@centredaily.comJanuary 6, 2014 

It's negative 10 degrees in State College, Pa., and photographer Nabil K. Mark changes water to snow to demonstrate the chilling temperature. Warning: If you try this at home, always use caution with hot water to avoid injury. CDT/Nabil K. Mark


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    Tips for keeping animals safe in cold temperatures provided by the Pennsylvania State Animal Response Team:

    -- Never leave puppies, smaller dogs, older dogs or cats outdoors when the temperature falls below 40 degrees.

    -- If your dog or cat stays outside much of the time in the winter, be certain that they have a proper shelter raised several inches off the ground with a flap over the entry. Keep a fresh blanket, cedar shavings or straw to keep the pet warm. The shelter should be large enough that your pet can sit and stand, but small enough so the pet's body heat will be retained in the house.

    -- Use a plastic water bowl to ensure your pet's tongue does not get stuck to cold metal, and change the water often to keep it from freezing.

    -- Be sure to keep older or arthritic pets inside. Escort older dogs outside for toileting and use a leash if the yard has ice or snow. Older dogs can easily fall and seriously injure themselves.

    -- Be alert for signs of frostbite and injury. Dogs' ears, paws and tails are especially susceptible, and if you suspect frostbite, contact your veterinarian. If your dog plays on ice or hard, frozen dirt, check his paws for cuts and always wipe his feet after a walk in the snow to remove ice pellets and salt deposits.

    -- Use only pet-safe ice melt.

    -- Always be alert for signs of hypothermia such as shivering, lethargy, low heart rate and unresponsiveness.

    -- Never leave your dog inside a parked car. During the winter it can act as an icebox and trap cold air inside.

With frigid temperatures Tuesday dipping lower than they’ve been in the past 20 years, Centre County residents need to take precautions for their pets, experts say.

Temperatures will struggle to eclipse 0 degrees throughout the day, meaning dogs and cats need to be brought inside to prevent problems such as frostbite and hypothermia, said Robyn Graboski, Centre County Animal Response Team co-coordinator.

“In extreme temperatures, especially for dogs that are outside, they should be brought inside where they have shelter,” she said, adding that people should start to take precautionary measures when temperatures drop below 40 degrees.

Some dogs have the ability to stay warmer than others in very cold temperatures, but precautions need to be taken for all animals when the cold sets in. Throughout the winter season, Graboski said, pet owners should look to purchase insulated dog houses with heating mats and electrified dog bowls that prevent water from freezing.

If a pet is left outside and the owner notices shivering, lethargy, low heart rate and unresponsiveness, the animal should immediately be brought inside and the owner should call a veterinarian. People should also wrap the animal in a light blanket in the interim.

And if anyone sees a dog outdoors with no shelter, the Centre County dog warden can be reached by phone at 553-8511.

The incoming cold front is much stronger than normal, and AccuWeather senior meteorologist Tom Kines said setting a new record low for the day is possible. The record low temperature for Jan. 7 is minus 1, so if it drops below that at any point of the day, a new record will be set.

Kines added that the last time the high temperature was at or about 0 degrees was 1994. The intense cold will last from Monday night through Tuesday before temperatures start to climb.

“The worst of it is only going to last a couple days, which is good, then temperatures will start a slow rebound,” he said.

In addition to animals, frostbite sets in quickly for humans and Kines said people should avoid venturing outdoors with exposed skin throughout the day Tuesday.

The second half of the week could bring slightly higher temperatures and some snow. Rain that fell Sunday could also cause some hazardous driving conditions Monday if wet spots on the road freeze and create ice patches.

Matt Morgan can be reached at 235-3928. Follow him on Twitter @MetroMattMorgan.

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