Cold temps, winter weather affect pets

By Wendy Byerly Wood -

Cold temperatures and winter weather don’t just rearrange the lives of people in the community, but they also change how animals adapt to the environment around them.

While most outdoor animals do have thicker fur in the winter months, Dr. Richard Brinegar of Animal Ark in Elkin said when the temperatures get cold and winter weather is forecast, “They need a warm place to get to like everyone else.”

He said basements aren’t as common in the area because of the amount of clay in the soil, but ideally it would be great if all animals could be in a basement or house.

For those who may not have a basement, or whose animals are too large to come in the house, Brinegar said, “You want stables and barns, animals need fresh water, fresh food and a way to get out of the wind.”

Brinegar’s January newsletter on the Animal Ark website,, provides a number of tips on animal care during the winter and holiday seasons.

Some of the hazards Brinegar highlights in his newsletter include antifreeze, which can taste sweet to a pet, but is lethal.

Also, in cold temperatures, animals, in particular cats, have a tendency to sleep near a warm car engine, so Brinegar encourages people to make sure they know where there cat is and honking the horn before cranking the car.

“Frostbite is the number one winter pet hazard,” said Brinegar. “Cats should stay indoors and owners should shorten dog walks when the temperature falls.”

With the winter precipitation forecast this week, he said rock salt, which is used to melt snow and ice, can be an issue for pets as it can irritate the pads of their paws. “Rub a bit of baby oil and sprinkle some baby powder on the pads before going outside, and clean the pads before coming back inside,” suggested Brinegar.

“If your pet must be outside at all, make sure you provide adequate shelter,” he said. “A doghouse should be no more than three times the size of the dog. Cedar shavings make the best bedding. Avoid blankets and straw, they harbor fleas.”

And people aren’t the only creatures who suffer from dandruff. “With the dry winter air, dandruff becomes a problem. Keeping your pet brushed will help remedy this condition,” he said.

Last, but not least, be sure to keep water fresh. “Make sure your pet’s water stays unfrozen,” said Brinegar. “It’s better to use a porcelain pottery bowl, not meta, to prevent tongues from sticking.”

For more animal safety tips, visit and click on the Newsletter link.

Wendy Byerly Wood may be reached at 336-258-4035 or on Twitter @wendywoodeditor.

By Wendy Byerly Wood

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