BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - As the coldest weather in nearly a year approaches southeastern Louisiana, officials are urging people to remember to protect their pets and plants during harsh temperatures.
Pets exposed to temperatures in the low teens or single digits for prolonged periods can get frostbite on their feet or the tips of their ears (the skin will turn darker in color). Another symptom to be watchful for is lethargy or weakness. If you feel that your pet has been adversely affected by the cold and requires medical care, please contact your veterinarian.
- Don’t leave pets outdoors when the temperature drops. If this is not an option, make sure there is a dry shelter available and have warm blankets for your pet.
- Outdoor pets use more energy to keep warm so they will need more food when it’s cold. Routinely check your pet's water dish to make certain the water is fresh and unfrozen.
- If your dog stays outside, provide a doghouse with a raised floor that is large enough to allow the dog to sit and lie down comfortably, but small enough to hold in body heat. Cover the floor with a blanket (but only if the dog will not eat it) or maybe straw or wood shavings if available and make sure the door is turned to face away from the wind.
- If you're feeding homeless cats, be sure to provide an insulated shelter for them.
- Warm engines in parked cars attract cats and small wildlife that may crawl up under the hood. To avoid injuring any hidden animals, bang on your car's hood to scare them away before starting your engine.
- Antifreeze has a sweet taste that can attract animals, but it is toxic to them. Wipe up spills and store antifreeze and other household chemicals out of reach.
- Provide adequate food and water. Monitor water bowls as they can freeze during cold weather.
- Consider a sweater for your short-haired dog.
- Outdoor cats searching for warmth will sometimes crawl underneath the hood of a vehicle. Cats can be injured or even killed when the car is started. Before cranking up your vehicle in the morning, bang on or open the hood of your car so any feline seeking refuge on the engine can get out.
Horses are great at staying warm since they have many metabolic processes that generate heat or allow them to conserve heat. Their digestive processes generate a lot of heat and their haircoat can “puff-up” (this is known as piloerection) to further insulate them. Horses are actually better at staying warm in winter than staying cool in summer.
- Ensure that the horses have water, hay, and shelter 24/7 (if they prefer to remain outside, provide them with an option to have some sort of protection from wind and rain)
- Allow them to move around (this generates heat)
- If they are very old, very young, sick, too skinny, etc. and unable to thermoregulate, then they may need to be stalled and/or blanketed, along with all of the other precautions listed above
The most important precaution is to provide an unfrozen, clean water source on a constant basis; otherwise, the horse could colic.
If your pet or animal requires medical care after-hours, you can contact the LSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital on Skip Bertman Drive; the hospital is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year and remains open even during disasters such as hurricanes. The number for the Small Animal Clinic (pets and exotic animals) is 225-578-9600, and the number for the Large Animal Clinic (horses and farm animals) is 225-578-9500.
- Owners should check their livestock and look for signs of stress, illness or injury.
- Pay close attention to the young and older animals as they are more susceptible to problems during frigid conditions.
- Provide plenty of hay, feed, supplements and water.
- Be sure to check water troughs as they can ice over.
- If possible, make adequate shelter available. Even a wind-break will minimize exposure to cold winds.
- Move all plants in containers and hanging baskets inside. If this is not possible, group them in a protected area and cover with plastic.
- Larger plants can be covered with fabric or plastic.
- Thoroughly water plants if the soil is dry.
- For plants growing in the ground, mulch them with dry material such as pine straw and leaves.