PDT Staff Writer
People and pets have a lot in common during extremely cold weather. They both require protection from the cold.
“Young healthy people can tolerate it and work outside,” Scioto County Health Commissioner Dr. Aaron Adams said. “Extremely young people and older folks, particularly older folks with chronic conditions should stay out of it and avoid falls. People should stay in and try to keep their homes warm and in environments with warm air to avoid the complications of the cold weather.”
Adams said one group of people who need to be particularly mindful of avoiding extremely cold weather are diabetics.
“They can end up having sores on their feet and get worse; and lack of proper circulation,” Adams said. “There is also chronic lung disease - cold air can create more problems, adding risk of infection. People with asthma can have flare-ups of asthma due to the cold air.”
Adams said ultimately people should try to stay inside where it is warm and avoid exposure to the extreme cold. However, there are still people who must work outside in the cold, such as service workers, especially those who have to repair waterline breaks.
“Appropriately, you should layer, particularly if you are active, so you don’t get sweaty,” Adams said. “If you are out working in the weather, you should wear materials that would keep moisture away from your skin, so you wouldn’t get cold and chill - particularly things like cotton, that drop your body temperature and create problems for you. As far as freezing, dropping your body temperature, layering in the synthetic clothing we have today is a good idea, and wool has been around for a long time. There’s nothing better than wool. Even when you’re wet, the wool will still keep you warm and keep your body temperature. Wear a cap on your head ad a scarf around your neck, boots, and pants and things that will actually hold your temperature up there.”
Outdoor animals can be extremely susceptible to cold weather.
“If the temperature is 20 degrees and it’s windy, a dog can suffer frostbite in 15 minutes,” said Dr. Gail Counts, of Shawnee Animal Clinic. “The tips of their ears, their tails and toes can all freeze in a matter of minutes.”
Counts said the most important thing an outdoor dog owner can do is attempt to put their pet in a heated area such as a garage. If that isn’t possible, Counts recommends dog houses with flaps of burlap to cover the doorway, where they can easily go in and out, and that the house is not too large for the dog, because the dog must heat the house with its own body heat.
“It should be about three times the height of the dog and should be closed off enough from wind,” she said. “People don’t realize how bad wind is, but if you get a pen or dog house that is big and roomy, the dog probably won’t be able to heat it up because of the wind that comes through.”
Counts said the Igloo type of dog house is well insulated. “With other houses, cedar chips make a good insulator. Straw is not good, but it will work in a pinch,” she said.
Counts said it is important that dogs stay dry.
“When they get in wet mud or puddles, they do not dry out, they go into their house and stay wet and their fur freezes,” she said.
Counts said small dogs, with thin hair, weighing less than 30 pounds, should not be outside at all. She also said those dogs are not outside dogs to begin with. Puppies are not able to warm their environment like grown dogs either.
Another issue is making sure the dog has access to fresh water that is not frozen.
“Heated water dishes are available. Those dishes have heating coils in the plastic,” she said. “You just have to plug it in to an electrical outlet.”
Counts said one of the dangers is antifreeze. “When they run loose and don’t have access to water, they will drink antifreeze because it is sweet, and that is deadly.”
A dog care website, loveyourdog.com says there is another precaution that must be taken … “If your dog walks on salty sidewalks or streets, be sure to rinse the salt off the bottom of its feet.”
Another website with information on care of outdoor animals is aspca.org. That site reports that extreme care also is necessary for outdoor cats. The website suggests that during the winter, outdoor cats sometimes sleep under the hoods of cars. When the motor is started, the cat can be injured or killed by the fan belt. If there are outdoor cats in your area, bang loudly on the car hood before starting the engine to give the cat a chance to escape.
The ASPCA says no cats belong outside.
“Keep your cats inside. Outdoors, felines can freeze, become lost or be stolen, injured or killed. Cats who are allowed to stray are exposed to infectious diseases, including rabies, from other cats, dogs or wildlife,” the Web site warns.
The ASPCA says to make sure your companion animal has a warm place to sleep, off the floor and away from all drafts, and recommends dog and cat beds have a warm blanket or pillow.
Frank Lewis may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 252, or at firstname.lastname@example.org