Pet and livestock owners are urged to use common sense
SIKESTON -- When temperatures fall to freezing -- and below, it's a good idea for owners to pay special attention to their pets and livestock -- both inside and out, local veterinarians say.
Dr. Elizabeth St. John of Tri-County Veterinary Hospital in Sikeston said animals suffer every year from their owners not taking appropriate preventive measures during cold weather.
"It can be a big a problem. Even people who are well-intentioned but their common sense isn't working too good can make mistakes," St. John said.
Frigid temperatures are expected to drop into the teens later this week, according to the National Weather Service.
The good news is animals don't have to suffer just because of winter weather. "If it's an outside animal, they're already acclimated to the cold, but you should give them some sort of windbreak or shelter," said Dr. Sam Hunter of North Ridge Veterinary Hospital.
However, the stress of the cold is too much for older or ill animals, Hunter said.
"If they have to fight the cold and are healthy and acclimated to it, then they should be fine. If they have health problems or been an inside pet and all of a sudden have been put outside, they can't stand that," Hunter said.
Whether the weather stays cold for a long time and if it's mixed with precipitation are also factors in how animals are impacted.
"If it's just a few days and gets back up in the 50s, that doesn't seem to be much of a problem, but if it's for a week or 10 days, it can be very dangerous," Hunter said.
An abrupt temperature change can also be damaging to an animal. "If an animal has been outside, it's just as hard on them to bring them inside. They don't need the sudden change," Hunter said.
Wind chill factor can be rough sometimes because not all animals have the good instinct to keep themselves warm, Hunter said.
Fresh, thawed water is another key to keeping animals, both big and small, healthy during cold weather. Owners need to put fresh water out at least twice a day and probably more, Hunter said, adding most people who have livestock use water troughs with heaters.
Nutrition is also of concern, Hunter said. Feed animals high-quality, high-
energy food because the animals burn everything they eat for heat, the vet advised.
"You may see some large animals lose weight (during cold weather) because they burn up their body fat to stay warm," Hunter explained. "They may burn twice as many calories."
Quality premium dog foods are good year-round, Hunter said.
"If the pet or animal begins to act abnormal and can't get up or can't move or isn't moving like he should or he quits eating, it can be a sign something is wrong," Hunter said.
There is a difference between a couple days of 12- or 14-degree temperatures at night versus 10 days of sub-zero degree weather, which is a serious situation, Hunter said.
Hunter recommended owners to just use common sense, and if someone's not sure what to do, call a local veterinarian.