Cold weather? Protect your pets and livestock.

Snowy weather always makes for fun Facebook uploads of dogs and cats being excited or confused by the arrival of snow, but while you’re charging up your phone for the videos, don’t forget to be watching out for their welfare.

The next few days will not only see a layer of snow on the ground; they will also be bringing frigid weather through Sunday night with lows in the single digits and highs barely hovering around freezing.

Margaret Ross, the area specialized poultry agent for the state’s County Extension offices, had some good advice for pets in general: “Make sure they have enough food to get them through,” she said. “Make sure they have the basic necessities: that they’re safe, dry and warm, that they have water and medications.”
A lot of this is common sense: if you have a pet that you can bring inside, do so.

If you can’t, or won’t, here are other steps you might take to protect them.

Waynette Rowe, an animal control officer for Craven County, gave the following bits of advice: “Make sure that the dog has water that’s not frozen if it has to be outside,” she said. “Make sure they have something warm to bed in, preferably straw. Hay actually draws the dampness, but straw does not.”

She advised making a frequent check on the pet’s water so it doesn’t freeze, and that the pet is fed on a regular basis.

She said outdoor cats may have it easier than outdoor dogs — a cat can more easily roam and find a warm place than dogs can, although if you have outdoor cats it would be a good idea to put out some kind of shelter from the weather for them, even if it is a box of some kind.

The American Red Cross has issued a more detailed suggestion for shelters. “Make sure they are protected by a dry, draft-free enclosure large enough to allow them to sit and lie down,” a release says, “but small enough to hold in the pet’s body heat. Raise the floor a few inches off the ground and cover it with cedar shavings or straw. Turn the enclosure away from the wind and cover the doorway with waterproof burlap or heavy plastic.”

The Red Cross also points out that salt and other chemicals used to melt snow can irritate your pet’s paws, and suggests wiping their paws with a damp towel when they come in from the outside before the pet can lick them and irritate their mouths.

As to dogs who are outside and tethered? “They don’t have a choice,” Rowe said. “They depend on us solely to take care of them.”

Ross had additional advice for people with non-traditional pets — chickens and livestock such as horses or donkeys.

As to chickens, “The drier the better,” she said, “because that way you can protect them from the spread of disease. Get them out of the elements: it’s supposed to be windy.” She said owners don’t need to concern themselves as to whether the chickens will stay warm: feathers are excellent insulation, and the birds draw their feet up beneath them to keep themselves warm.

But cold can stir up predators, so owners should be on the alert for that.

Also, free ranging birds will have a harder time finding their own food in snow, so it’s important to keep to their feeding schedule.

As to watering chickens — or pretty much any other outdoor animal — owners can save themselves the trials of regularly breaking the ice in their watering containers by purchasing heated waterers. “Places like Tractor Supply carry them,” she said.

Ross said that it’s also important to make sure you have enough medications for your pet, “anxiety medications or whatever they need. We always check to make sure we have enough of our own meds, but sometimes we forget to check for our pets.”

Also important, she said, is having some kind of ID for pets. This is especially the case for horses or other animals that have pastures: heavy snow breaks limbs and trees, and falling trees and limbs can break fencing. If your animal escapes it’s pen, it’s a good idea to have them ID’d in such a way that you, the owner, will quickly be found.