A fur coat only goes so far, the Georgia Department of Agriculture's Animal Industry Division warned Wednesday when it urged pet owners and farmers to take precautions with their animals as temperatures drop.
Small pets, especially very young and very old ones, should be kept indoors, the agency said. Cats are especially prone to hiding under warm cars or in the hood, so tap the hood and check under the tires for any Friskies or Snowballs that may be taking shelter there.
While certain dog breeds like Huskies are adapted for cold, others are not. Moreover, most heat loss occurs through the ears, respiratory tract and footpads, meaning those adorable doggie sweaters actually do little to prevent heat loss.
If there is ice on the ground, wash dogs’ feet with a wash cloth, the department advised. Rock salt or chemical ice melts can cause foot pads to get chapped and raw, and excessive licking of it can cause digestive problems, it added.
Pets with existing health issues may have trouble regulating their own body temperature, so make sure your animals have plenty of food and water. Dispose of antifreeze properly; it is poisonous to dogs who can mistake it for a sweet treat.
Horses grow winter coats and are fairly cold tolerant as long as they have adequate food and water, as they burn up more energy and require more calories when temperatures drop. Also, they can get impaction colic if they don’t drink enough water during these times. The department recommended sprinkling their feed with salt and adding Gatorade to their water to encourage consumption.
It is also important to make sure their water supply is not iced over and therefore inaccessible.
For old, skinny horses, offer adequate shelter or a winter blanket and additional care to help them stay warm.
Beef cows, like horses, require more calories during cold weather because they expend more energy to keep warm. The department advised farmers to reduce mud in and around feeding areas and ensure their cattle are getting sufficient nutrition. A mineral supplement, especially magnesium, can help reduce grass tetany, which can be triggered in cold weather.