PUBLISHED: 3:21 PM on Wednesday, December 14, 2005
Practice cold weather protection for pets
Even though your dog or cat has a permanent fur coat, that doesn't mean pets don't feel cold, say veterinarians, who often see cases of tail and ear frostbite.

As temperatures all over other parts of the country dip well below the freezing mark this week, some veterinarians offer a few cold weather safety tips for dogs, cats and other animals.

Ardmore vet Barbara Dunn said there are different considerations depending on the age of the dog.

"People that have young puppies, less than 6 months old, and those that have geriatric pets, which is sort of different for every dog. Regardless of the pet, when it starts getting cold, if they've got shelter that is wind and rain proof, you are pretty well covered unless you start getting down into the 20s (degrees) or less," Dunn said.

When temperatures fall below 20, she sees cases of tail frost bite or ear frost bite. Pets need to be in a garage or somewhere there is a little more heat source than a dog house.

"Older pets and young dogs, most definitely when it gets below 32, you have to be concerned about providing some other warmth besides just the shelter and the blankie," Dunn said.

When dogs get wet, their energy requirements double or triple because of the chill factor. This also applies to cats and horses. They must be provided with some kind of shelter, a good wind break and protection from the moisture of rain or snow.

Dr. Doug Aldridge said dogs' resistance to colder weather depends on the breed. Where a Chihuahua might perish outdoors, Labrador retrievers, Norwegian Elk Hounds or huskies will fare better but need a dog house to get out of the wind.

"In the wild, they would find a place to hold up," Aldridge said. "In your back yard, you need to provide a place for them. You don't see cats have trouble with the cold because they can get anywhere. They've got a tremendous coat, and they will find somewhere. You see cats sitting by the heating vents, by the dryer vents. They will find a warm spot, or snuggle up into a little ball somewhere."

Another cold weather concern is cats crawling up under the hood of cars to warm themselves. Aldridge sees many "fan belt injuries" and says there are few minor fan belt injuries.

"They will get up there to stay warm," Aldridge said. "They will get up near the radiator, and as soon as you fire that thing up the fan gets them. It's really horrible."