Winter Safety Tips for Pets and Livestock

December 23, 2014

winter-tips-pets-livestock4Unfortunately many people think since animals have fur or thick hide they are able to withstand the cold better than humans, but often this is not the case. Cold weather can be as hard on critters as it is on people and may lead to serious illness, injury or death.

Gimme shelter: When the temperatures drop in the winter months, bring your pets and critters indoors since they can be susceptible to frostbite and hypothermia. If you don’t have a barn or structure for livestock and other outdoor animals, at least make some type of windbreak to help keep them safe and out of the wind.

If you do keep livestock indoors, make sure the barn / building is well ventilated since ammonia can build up. Also add plenty of dry bedding (such as straw) to stalls, coops and cages so animals aren’t standing or lying on the cold ground, and provide a blanket for pets to sleep on. Space heaters and heat lamps should be avoided because of the risk of burns or fire. Heated pet mats should also be used with caution because they are still capable of causing burns.

Water and food: Make sure pets and livestock have plenty of fresh food and water, and constantly check their bowls and troughs to ensure their water isn’t frozen. Increase feed amounts for pets and livestock during cold snaps since they’ll burn more calories trying to keep warm. Also try to keep at least several weeks worth of feed on hand since you don’t want to run out when it may be difficult to have another load delivered.

Watch for signs: Take extra time to observe livestock, looking for early signs of disease and injury. Ready.gov explains severe cold-weather injuries or death primarily occur in the very young or in animals that are already debilitated. Cases of weather-related sudden death in calves often result when cattle are suffering from undetected infection, particularly pneumonia. Sudden, unexplained livestock deaths and illnesses should be investigated quickly so that a cause can be identified and steps can be taken to protect the remaining animals.

winter-tips-petsAnimals suffering from frostbite don’t exhibit pain. It may be up to two weeks before the injury becomes evident as the damaged tissue starts to slough away. At that point, the injury should be treated as an open wound and a veterinarian should be consulted.

Your pets will give you signs too. If it is whining, shivering, seems anxious, slows down or stops moving, seems weak, or starts looking for warm places to burrow, get them back inside quickly because they are showing signs of hypothermia.

Also, the AVMA suggests you check your dog’s paws frequently for signs of cold-weather injury or damage, such as cracked paw pads or bleeding. During a walk, a sudden lameness may be due to an injury or may be due to ice accumulation between his/her toes. You may be able to reduce the chance of iceball accumulation by clipping the hair between your dog’s toes.

According to the American Animal Hospital Association…

  • Frostbite happens when an animal’s (or person’s) body gets so cold it pulls all the blood from extremities to the body’s core to stay warm. An animal’s ears, paws, and tail can get so cold that ice crystals form in the tissue damaging it. Frostbite can be tricky because it is not immediately obvious. Sometimes the tissue doesn’t show signs of damage for several days. If you suspect your pet may have frostbite, contact your veterinarian immediately.
  • Hypothermia is body temperature that is below normal. This condition occurs when an animal is unable to keep its body temperature from falling below normal. It occurs when an animal spends too much time in cold temperatures, or when an animal with poor health or circulation is exposed to cold. In mild cases, the animal will shiver and show signs of depression, lethargy, and weakness. As the condition progresses, muscles will stiffen, the heart and breathing rates slow, and the animal will stop responding to stimuli.

winter-tips-pets-cat-ck2Cat check: Outdoor and feral cats have a tendency to curl up against a warm vehicle engine during cold spells so check beneath your car, bang on the hood, and honk the horn before starting the engine to scare the critters away.

Hoof check: If you have hooved livestock, hoof care is very important during winter months since wet ground combined with dirty conditions (esp. bacteria and fungi) may cause thrush and foot rot. Robyn Scherer (author of “Managing Livestock in Winter Conditions” article in Countryside magazine) explains regular trimmings should be performed to keep feet in good condition. Also, if you own horses in cold country, pick their feet on a regular basis to prevent ice balls from forming, as this can cause stress on tendons and ligaments.

Antifreeze: It only takes a few tablespoons of highly toxic antifreeze to seriously jeopardize an animal’s life. Ethylene glycol, the most common ingredient in antifreeze, can cause crystals to form in an animal’s kidney, ultimately leading to kidney failure and death. Learn more about this sweet but deadly toxin on USFRA

winter-tips-pets-tinsel-by-petflowHoliday food and decorations: Avoid giving your pets rich, fatty foods like ham, turkey or goose since they can cause stomach problems, plus bones can splinter easily. And keep toxic foods such as onions, grapes, raisins, xylitol (a sugar substitute) and chocolate away from dogs, as well as plants like poinsettia, holly and mistletoe.

Dogs – esp. puppies – like to chew and eat anything … and cats love to play with shiny, dangly things so keep an eye on decorative strings of lights (both indoors and out) as well as ribbons, tinsel, ornaments and candles.

Heaters: Check your furnace to make sure it’s working efficiently, and install (and test) carbon monoxide detectors to keep your pets and family safe. Carbon monoxide is odorless and invisible, but it can cause problems ranging from headaches and fatigue to trouble breathing to even death. Also use space heaters with caution since they can burn your pets or the units can be knocked over, potentially starting a fire.

Move it: Exercise is good for pets, livestock and humans during the long winter months, but just make sure you don’t overdo it in the chilly temps and watch for signs of frostbite or hypothermia (see above). Also make sure you wipe down pet’s paws after playing or walking outside to remove any ice chunks or salt that may have gotten wedged in their pads or between their toes.

Be prepared: Cold weather also brings the risks of severe storms, blizzards, tornadoes and power outages. Create disaster supplies kits for your home and vehicles and don’t forget to pack supplies and water for your critters too. Download the Family Emergency Plan section and several topics from our IT’S A DISASTER! book to help you and others get prepared.

Sources:
American Animal Hospital Association
American Veterinary Medical Association
Countryside magazine
Grit.com
Ready.gov
U.S. First Responders Association  

Above appeared in our Dec 2013 enews

Additional Resources:

Holiday Fire Safety Tips  (about Christmas trees, lights, candles, etc.)  

Preparing for winter storms (tips to winterize home, prevent ice dams and more)

Winter Driving Tips  … and download our Winter Storm preparedness and safety tips (PDF)

12 Days of Winter Safety (a comprehensive + cost effective list by FLASH.org)

‘Tis the season for Pet safety (infographic in PDF by Pets Unlimited)

 


Winter Driving Tips

February 7, 2013

winter driving tips

Officials typically encourage people to stay off the roads as much as possible during major winter storms (especially when there is a freezing mix of ice, sleet and/or snow), but if you must travel, be prepared in case something goes wrong.

Driving – If you must travel, consider public transportation. Best to travel during the day, don’t travel alone, and tell someone where you’re going. Stay on main roads and avoid taking back roads.

Winterize car – Make sure you have plenty of antifreeze and snow tires (or chains or cables). Keep gas tank as full as possible during cold weather.

Winter Kit – Carry a “winter” car kit in trunk and throw in…

  • warm things – mittens, hat, emergency blanket, sweater, waterproof jacket or coat
  • cold weather items – windshield scraper, road salt, sand
  • emergency items – bright colored cloth or distress flag, booster cables, emergency flares, tow chain, rope, shovel
  • miscellaneous – food, water, radio, etc.

Stranded– If you get trapped in your car by a blizzard or break down…

  • get off the road – if you can, drive car onto the shoulder
  • give a sign – turn on hazard lights and tie a bright cloth or distress flag on antenna, door handle or hang out the driver side window (keep cloth/flag above snow so it draws attention)
  • stay in car – stay inside until help arrives (your Car Kit can provide food, water and comforts if you planned ahead)
  • start your car – turn on car’s engine and heater about 10 minutes each hour (open window slightly for ventilation so you don’t get carbon monoxide poisoning)
  • light at night – turn on inside light so crews or rescuers can see you
  • if you walk – if you walk away from car, make sure you can see the building or shelter (no more than 100 yards/10 m)
  • exercise – DO NOT overdo it, but light exercises can help keep you warm
  • sleeping – if others are in car, take turns sleeping so someone can watch for rescue crews
  • exhaust pipe – check exhaust pipe now and then and clear out any snow buildup

Watch for signs – playing, working or getting stranded out in the snow can cause exposure so look for signs of…

  • frostbite – loss of feeling in your fingers, toes, nose or ear lobes or they turn really pale
  • hypothermia – start shivering a lot, slow speech, stumbling, or feel very tired

For more safety tips about winter storms and severe weather, visit our Look Inside the Book page to download and share some free PDFs … and to learn more about our customizable products and funding programs.

And feel free to share your driving tips or stories below for others. Stay safe (and warm) out there! j & B


USFA encourages safety as cold weather approaches Sandy-stricken areas

November 6, 2012

According to the NOAA National Weather Service, a coastal storm is expected to impact the mid-Atlantic and Northeast beginning after midnight Tuesday night and continue through Thursday night, with clearing expected by Friday.

Impacts to the effected regions include: strong gusty northerly winds of 20-30 mph with gusts of 40-45 mph, rain of 1 to 2.5 inches along the coast, with lesser amounts inland possible, light wintry precipitation is possible inland, and coastal flooding/beach erosion along the east coast including areas already ravaged by Sandy.

AccuWeather.com is predicting temperatures may even be cold enough for some wet snow to mix in as far south as Philadelphia and Wilmington, DE, for a time Wednesday into Wednesday evening. And reports today indicate the storm is veering a bit away from NJ coastlines, but they still may get some high winds and minor storm surges.

People in the affected area should monitor NOAA weather radio and local news reports for the latest storm conditions and take the necessary precautions to keep safe.

As the cold weather approaches and residents take measures to stay warm (esp. in areas dealing with the aftermath of Sandy), please remember to take safety precautions. The U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) recommends that in addition to having working smoke and CO alarms, all residents should follow these safety tips to prevent fires and CO poisoning during the recovery efforts from Hurricane Sandy:

Preventing Fires

  • Do not enter a building when the smell of natural gas is detected.  Leave the building immediately and contact the fire department.
  • Do not use the kitchen oven range to heat your home. In addition to being a fire hazard, it can be a source of toxic fumes.
  • Alternative heaters need their space. Keep anything that can burn at least 3 feet away.
  • Make sure your alternative heaters have ‘tip switches.’ These ‘tip switches’ are designed to automatically turn off the heater in the event they tip over.
  • Only use the type of fuel recommended by the manufacturer and follow suggested guidelines.
  • Never refill a space heater while it is operating or still hot.
  • Refuel heaters only outdoors.
  • Make sure wood stoves are properly operating, and at least 3 feet away from anything that can burn. Ensure they have the proper floor support and adequate ventilation.
  • Use a glass or metal screen in front of your fireplace to prevent sparks from igniting nearby carpets, furniture or other items that can burn.
  • Place space heaters on a floor that is flat and level. Do not put space heaters on rugs or carpets.  Keep the heater at least three feet from bedding, drapes, furniture and other items that can burn; and place space heaters out of the flow of foot traffic.  Keep children and pets away from space heaters.
  • To prevent the risk of fire, NEVER leave a space heater on when you go to sleep or place a space heater close to any sleeping person.  Turn the heater off when you leave the area.
  • Open the fireplace damper before lighting a fire, and keep it open until the ashes are cool. An open damper may help prevent build-up of poisonous gases inside the home.
  • Store fireplace ashes in a fire-resistant container, and cover the container with a lid.  Keep the container outdoors and away from combustibles. Dispose of ashes carefully, keeping them away from dry leaves, trash or other items that can burn.
  • Never bring gasoline into a building.

Preventing CO Poisoning

  • Schedule a yearly professional inspection of all fuel-burning home heating systems, including furnaces, boilers, fireplaces, wood stoves, water heaters, chimneys, flues and vents.
  • NEVER operate a portable gasoline-powered generator in an enclosed space, such as a garage, shed, or crawlspace, or in the home.
  • Keep portable generators as far away from your home and your neighbors’ homes as possible – away from open doors, windows or vents that could allow deadly carbon monoxide into the home.
  • When purchasing a space heater, ask the salesperson whether the heater has been safety-certified. A certified heater has a safety certification mark. These heaters have the most up-to-date safety features.  An unvented gas space heater that meets current safety standards will shut off if oxygen levels fall too low.
  • Do not use portable propane space heaters indoors or in any confined space, unless they are designed specifically for indoor use.  Always follow the manufacturer’s directions for proper use.
  • Never use gas or electric stoves to heat the home. They are not intended for that purpose and can pose a CO or fire hazard.

Find more fire safety tips on USFA site

Source: USFA


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