‘Tis the Season

By Kristie Franks MS, www.huntsvillephp.com

Pet owners living in Texas know there is always the potential for harsh weather throughout the year. Winter in Texas is no different. It may be 80°f one day and 20°f the next. This can make it hard to be prepared at times. The best approach is to be prepared for anything! Begin by always monitoring the weather, especially during the times of year for extreme temperature changes.

Texas animal cruelty laws state that companion animals must be provided food, water, and shelter in an amount to maintain a good state of health. The law is written broadly and relies on pet owners to have some common sense as to what is needed for their animals. Shelter should provide cover from the wind, rain, and be of sufficient size for the pet to stand up, turn around, and lay down comfortably in. In the winter, they need the smaller space in order to trap body heat, like a blanket does for us. A covered back porch is not sufficient cover when it is freezing temperatures. All dogs and cats should be provided shelter, regardless of the breed. Owners should know that not all breeds or mixed breeds are the same though. Dogs bred for arctic weather, such as the Siberian Husky and Samoyed are breed to with stand temperatures below zero, when provided sufficient shelter. All double coated dogs are good to around freezing with sufficient shelter, while single coated dogs need harder shelter with lots of insulation if it’s less than 40°f, but ideally the single coated dos and miniature, toys and teacups need to be indoors in cold temperatures. All dogs that live the majority of their life indoors address not acclimated to outdoor weather and would therefore require more insulated shelter than those who continually live outside. Outdoor cats need access to a barn, storage room or garage in cold weather. Some outdoor cats will use specially made shelters designed for cats. These are usually made like a small doghouse with a small opening for the cat to go in and out of.

Pets still need adequate water sources during freezing weather. They cannot maintain adequate hydration by licking ice. Check water buckets and troughs daily. You can always add warm water to existing water to ensure the pets are properly provided for. To help ensure your dog, cat or livestock animals drink enough, you can also add warm water to their food. There are options of purchasing heated or heavily insulated buckets and troughs to help keep water from freezing.

Livestock are much more hardy and bred in order to withstand outdoor living. Texas livestock animal cruelty laws state livestock must be provided food, water, and care in an amount to maintain a good state of health. Again, our lawmakers are relying on owners to have some common sense. All livestock need to be provided a windbreak from strong, cold north winds and shelter from freezing rains. For some livestock, such as cattle, this may be a thick grove of trees, for some others such as horses and smaller livestock it may mean at least a lean-to or a barn. Texas’ normally mild winters do not promote sufficiently thick hair growth for below freezing temperatures. This does not mean a healthy animal will freeze, but they will be uncomfortable without access to shelter of some kind.

Small, young, old, or sick animals always need extra attention in adverse weather. Any animal that is underweight or lacks good muscle tone will not be able to adequately keep their body temperature up so they have to have extra breeding, heat lamps or ideally some sort of indoor shelter, either inside your home or an enclosed barn. Always have needed items on hand for sudden and drastic temperature changes. Keep a supply of bedding, heat lamps, extra buckets for hauling water, etc. in order to ensure your animals are properly cared for during freezing temperatures. Preparation makes it much easier than finding yourself scrambling or ending up with a sick animal from inadequate care.

Huntsville Pets Helping People is a therapy group with pets visiting hospitals, nursing homes and schools. Please visit our website www.huntsvillephp.com to learn more.