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As cold descends on Kansas, pets need protection

Now that the first blasts of winter have arrived, Wichita area animal advocates encourage people to be kind to four-footed friends and bring them inside.
Now that the first blasts of winter have arrived, Wichita area animal advocates encourage people to be kind to four-footed friends and bring them inside. File photo

Now that the first blasts of winter have arrived, Wichita area animal advocates encourage people to be kind to four-footed friends and bring them inside.

“We always recommend people bring them in,” said Melissa Houston, director of communications at the Kansas Humane Society. “That’s our first choice.”

The high temperatures on Tuesday aren’t expected to climb out of the 30s and, in fact, are expected to remain in the 30s through Sunday.

Snow could arrive Friday night into Saturday.

The bitter cold and snow can be a hard adjustment not only for people but also for animals.

If you can’t bring pets inside, try to provide some shelter for them. Place the shelters in directions out of the wind and provide adequate straw or bedding to help provide insulation from the cold.

“We try to teach owners about cold-weather safety,” said Sarah Hicks, veterinarian at the Indian Hills Animal Clinic, 1448 N. Maize Road, and a board member of the Kansas Humane Society. “All pets react differently to the cold. It’s about knowing your pet’s limits.”

Long-haired dogs such as huskies may frolic and thrive in cold weather, but smaller, skinnier breeds like dachshunds can freeze quickly in the cold temperatures. Diabetic animals and those with heart disease or hormone issues have a harder time regulating their body temperatures in extreme weather.

“It is important to know your pet and know how they tolerate cold weather and even what they should tolerate,” Hicks said.

Like people, animals can also suffer from frostbite or hypothermia symptoms where the body loses heat faster than it can produce it. Even if the temperatures aren’t record lows, wind chills in Kansas can bring on hypothermia.

Hicks recommends that pet owners examine their animals’ paws, looking at the bottoms for any signs of discoloration or discomfort.

She also suggests people tap the hoods of their vehicles before starting the engine, because sometimes cats and other small animals will seek shelter in tire wells and in spaces by the engine, seeking warmth.

“It is really tough, but whenever you are worried about an animal’s environment, call animal control,” Hicks said. “It is important to get the proper authorities involved, particularly when you see an animal that is not in proper health.”

Animal care in winter weather

Don’t leave pets outdoors or in vehicles alone during cold weather. Bring them inside, if possible.

Provide adequate shelter to your pets if they must remain outside. Styrofoam ice chests with a hole cut in an end can make impromptu cat shelters. Sheds, garages and other outbuildings can also be used. Don’t use blankets as bedding, as snow can be tracked in and result in a damp, cold environment for the animal. Keep bedding dry.

Provide fresh, unfrozen water.

Use pet-friendly snow melt.

And, don’t forget your feathered friends – fill your bird feeders.

Source: Sarah Hicks, veterinarian at Indian Hills Animal Clinic

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