The Sun News

MEEKS: Take care of pets, livestock in cold weather

As you cover your plants and pipes in preparation for freezing temperatures, don’t forget about protecting your animals from the cold as well.

To protect your normally outside pets from the cold temperatures, consider bringing them indoors. The contrast in temperatures from bringing your pets in at night and letting them out during the day can increase their risk of getting sick. If this is your plan, then you might want to consider housing your pets in the garage or a well built tool shed.

If you decide not to bring your pet in during the winter, a shelter is a must. A shelter should be clean, dry and well insulated. Straw, shavings or blankets work well for bedding.

Bedding should be checked frequently and should be changed if it becomes wet. Openings should have a door flap and face away from usual winds.

Outdoor cats will usually seek warmth on or near vehicle engines. Before starting up your vehicle, rap on the hood to chase cats away.

When you take your dog outside to use the bathroom, stay with it. If you are cold enough to go back inside, it probably is as well. If there is snow on the ground, wipe your dog’s paws and belly, checking for ice balls clinging to its fur.

It is critical that your pet has access to fresh water during winter. Research has shown that animals tend to drink less water in extreme cold, risking dehydration. Ice cold water also lowers body heat. If your pet’s outside water source is not heated, you will need to change it often during freezing temperatures.

Shorthaired breeds may need a sweater while outside during winter, but a sweater is not a substitute for a shelter. When a dog sweater gets wet, it actually removes heat from the body.

Nutrition is an important concern during the winter. Outdoor pets need more calories during the winter to ward off the cold. During the winter, add 10 percent to 15 percent more food to your pet’s daily ration. Another way to meet those increased calorie needs is to add more fat to the diet.

Be careful though, as too much fat can lead to diarrhea and dehydration.

Livestock and horses require shelter, warm bedding, more high-quality feed and fresh water just like your pets during winter. It a good idea to stockpile feed, bedding and medical supplies for winter emergencies.

Special attention should be given to young or old animals. They have weaker immune systems and are less able to tolerate cold weather.

For more information on any program area, contact Houston County Extension at 478-987-2028 or drop by our office in the old courthouse, downtown Perry, 801 Main St. Office hours are 8 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday through Friday. Visit our website at for more news about your local Extension office.


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