Watch Tip: Freezing Weather

Posted on December 5th, 2009 by Anna Nirva

weekly-watch-tips-whiteTip for Week of Dec. 6:

Watch and listen for chained or kenneled dogs and “outside” cats during subzero weather—without adequate shelter, fresh water, and extra food, they can get frostbitten or freeze to death. Please take action.

Did you know subzero weather anywhere causes suffering for outside dogs and cats?

Frostbite scar on Duffer's legOur rescue pit bull mix dog, a short-hair dog, Duffer, has hairless spots on his legs; see the picture. Our rescue cat Tillie has slightly rounded ear tips. Their skin was permanently damaged from frostbite.

Imagine what that must have felt like in the bitter cold. Of course they would have both somewhat accustomed to cold weather living in Wisconsin. Of course each one would have sought out the most sheltered spot available. The shivering would start and pause at times, as the wind would rise and fall. Then the shivering would increase. The chill would seep deeply into their bones. They would carefully round themselves into new positions fighting to protect one body area and then the next. And they would cry out in pain. Eventually hypothermia would set in and they would feel as if burning up and they would try to cool off. Then the cold would kill them.

Have you ever heard a dog barking nonstop on a cold night? One neighbor in Minnesota talked about her neighbor’s dog to reporters.  The dog had barked nonstop until past midnight. The next morning she saw the poor dog laying flat outside next to his plastic igloo dog house laying very still. He had frozen to death while in the throes of hypothermia. He suffered terribly. She felt very sorry for not calling the police, but her neighbor who owned the dog was the mayor of her small town, and she didn’t want to challenge authority. What would you have done?

One bitterly cold and windy winter morning at the shelter where I volunteer a cardboard box was found on concrete next to the north-facing front door. Two hypothermic kittens, possibly 12 weeks old, were huddled together inside with not even an old scrap of fabric to help them hold a little bit of their heat. They were near death. Shelter workers were able to revive them in warm water. Remember all cats are at risk of freezing to death if they are not free to seek shelter.

All short-hair dogs without an inner layer of fur that are chained or kenneled are at risk of frostbite and death. And plastic igloo dog houses do not provide any insulation. Zero. They must be fully packed with hay or straw in the winter no matter where you live. Old rugs are not enough insulation when winter’s cold storms roar.

How about giving a bale of hay or straw to a needy dog or cat this holiday?