Plan ahead and pay attention to cold-weather warnings. Here are some tips to keep in mind:
Animals should be kept away from sources of water such as ponds, streams, rivers, etc. These temperatures can create freezing situations where animals may not recognize that water has frozen over, but it is not enough to support their weight, so they risk falling through.
Shorten your dog’s walks outside to limit the time they are exposed to cold and windy conditions. Remember that just because they have fur doesn’t mean they can’t be impacted by the temperatures. If you haven’t yet, consider getting your dog fitted for a winter coat. It will not only help protect from the cold, but also from any wet conditions should you be walking them in snow or rain. If it’s too cold for you to stand outside, it is probably also too cold for your pets.
For those with outside animals such as birds, sheep, goats, horses, etc. make sure that you check their stalls, sheds, or coops to be sure that everything is dry and warm. Add extra bedding and hay to assure that moisture doesn’t settle and freeze, frequently check water sources, and remember that staying warm requires extra calorie so include some extra food as animals go through more food in colder weather. Birds especially are prone to frostbite on their waddles and feet.
Thoroughly clean your pets’ paws, legs and abdomen after they have been outside, to prevent ingestion of toxic substances and to prevent their pads from becoming dry and irritated. This will protect them against ingesting things like chemicals, ice melt, antifreeze, motor oil, and other things that are commonly used (and spilled) in winter. Contact your veterinarian immediately if you suspect your pets have ingested any antifreeze!
For larger animals, the most obvious way to them warm and dry during the winter is to provide adequate shelters and SAFE heating devices. It’s important to know your animals and how resistant each is to the cold. Any time temperatures drop below 30-35 F extra heating should be implemented, especially with small animals, like chickens and rabbits that need more heat.
Horse’s hooves, especially, ice over. They’ll build balls of ice because of the way their hooves are cupped on the bottom and if they come running into the barn with those on their feet, they can easily trip. Just like us, if a horse, cow, goat, or other animal falls, it can break hips, legs, and other bones. Unlike us, that’s often a tragic situation.
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