MARYVILLE, Mo. — With a brutal cold front forecast to move into Nodaway County over the weekend, area residents are stocking up on ice-melt and anti-freeze and digging into closets for their heaviest coats, gloves, insulated socks and winter boots.
But one segment of the population must depend on preparation and special care by others in order to survive winter’s coldest days and nights.
Pets — especially dogs and cats who, at milder times of year, spend a lot of time outside.
Extreme cold can be deadly for pets, who don’t have the luxury of being able to speak to their owners when they are suffering from exposure, frostbite, ice-covered paws or dehydration.
Dr. Sally Hayse, who operates the South Paws Veterinarian Clinic at 2211 S. Main St. in Maryville, offered advice this week about how responsible pet owners can protect their four-legged dependents when the thermometer drops well below freezing.
The best option, Hayse said, is simply to keep pets inside as much as possible, with freshly changed litter boxes for cats and only brief trips outside for dogs.
If pets must be kept outside, Hayse said, it is essential to provide them with adequate shelter from the wind and cold along with bedding material designed to provide maximum insulation.
Other essentials include sufficient, unfrozen water and extra food, since, like people, the more pets eat the warmer they stay.
Pet sweaters and similar garments can also help, as well as commercially available paw covers and other devices designed to protect exposed skin.
For outdoor pets, heated water bowls, available at most farm-and-home stores, are also a good idea.
Other cold-weather products for pets, especially dogs, include salves and ointments designed to protect paws from ice and salt.
“Keep your pet inside as much as possible,” during extreme cold snaps, Hayse said, and don’t let dogs, especially short-haired dogs, spend more than a few minutes outside while excreting waste.
It’s a bad idea, she added, to let pets roam unsupervised when temperatures dive into the teens and single digits.
“Make sure they are safe,” Hayse said. “Like people the pets most at risk are the very young and the very old or those with health problems.”
She continued that cold weather creates other hazards in addition to exposure, frostbite and raw, frozen paws. For example, people who winterize their own vehicles sometimes spill antifreeze along street curbs or in gutters.
Deadly poison to pets, antifreeze often has a sweet taste that makes dog and cats want to lap up a substance that can cause severe illness or death after just a lick or two.
On the upside, Hayse said she typically sees only a few cases of pets suffering from weather-related health issues and injuries each winter.
It happens, she said, “but fortunately it’s pretty rare. We have a lot of smart pet owners out there who are doing a good job taking care of their animals.”