With windchills expected between 40 and 50 below zero this week, frostbite can set in within a matter of minutes. In this frigid weather, pets need extra care to ensure their wellbeing.
Lisa Tichy, co-founder of Diamond in the Ruff Rescue, which primarily serves the Marshall/Tama county areas, said pets need to be brought indoors in this type of weather.
“You have to bring your dogs inside, even for a day, or pay to have them kenneled, until we get through the cold spell,” she said. “In this weather, a dog house is not enough protection. Short-haired, smaller dogs have a higher risk of hypothermia and frostbite. Just short amounts of time outside is all they can handle in this weather.”
“Ice balls” can form between the pads and toes of hairy-footed dogs. Use a warm washcloth to remove any snow, ice and ice melt from your pets. Ice melt can cause a chemical burn on the pads of animals’ feet. Being wet can also increase the risk of developing hypothermia.
Keeping dogs’ fur long and not over-shampooing can be beneficial.
“Don’t shave down your dog in the winter, and you also want to limit the number of baths,” Tichy said. “Too much shampooing removes oils from their skin.”
You can prevent itchy, dry skin (for canines and humans) with the use of a humidifier in your home.
Shelly Deal, director of the Animal Rescue League of Marshalltown, said extreme temperatures can lead to the shelter seeing an increase in animals being brought in.
“We are a safe haven, and if the animals aren’t claimed we can find them a new home,” she said.
Dogs must be held at the ARL for seven days before they can be adopted, and for three days for cats.
Both Tichy and Deal said that while their agencies are committed to animal welfare, local law enforcement must first be called when an animal is in need.
“If you find an animal that needs help we can check on them and drive by, but the police department is the only one who can enforce the laws inside the city limits of Marshalltown, and the sheriff’s department outside of it,” Tichy said.
If animals cannot be brought inside, Deal said garages and porches can provide some protection, but food and water kept outdoors is not likely to stay fresh. Canines and cats can be provided with insulated dog houses, complete with heating pads and heated bowls, but those things are only so helpful in 40 and 50 below zero weather.
Just like in the summertime, animals should not be left in automobiles for extended periods of time.
“Feed your dogs a higher protein food to keep the weight on and energy up,” Tichy said.
Deal said the ARL tends to see a spike in animals getting sick whenever the weather is extremely cold or hot.
“We see animals in more need of medical attention due to the extreme temperatures,” Deal said. “I haven’t heard of anything locally, but we know there are dogs across the country that have frozen to death.”
Diamond in the Ruff may be reached at 515-808-BARK. The ARL can be reached at: 641-753-9046.
Contact Sara Jordan-Heintz at