By Megan Semeraz, The Oakland Press
If it is too cold for you to be outside, experts say it is also too cold for pets.
Pam Porteous, manager of the Animal Care Network, said their crews were out until Sunday rescuing dogs from the cold.
“The roads are too bad (since then), but we had been out every single day since winter started trying to get to as many dogs as we can and giving them straw (for warmth),” Porteous said.
Joanie Toole, administrative supervisor with Oakland County Animal Control, said their crews have been working to keep dogs safe in the cold.
“We enforce the Michigan state law, which requires dogs to have water and shelter,” Toole said. “Unfortunately, it doesn’t mention anything about temperature.”
In these temperatures, pet owners need to remember some things.
“They need to bring the dogs and cats inside, period,” Porteous said. “It’s 30 degrees below zero, they need to bring them inside, it’s one thing if the verge of being freezing — the dogs can stay warm with straw in dog houses — if they have meat on their bones. But the dogs need to be brought in period, there’s no question about it.”
Dogs in this cold weather can get frostbitten. Porteous said their feet and tails get red and bloody from frostbite, which can happen in minutes.
Toole agreed bringing dogs inside is the best option. She said if the dog must be outside, it should see a veterinarian to make sure it is healthy enough to be out in the colder temperatures. A vet may say that pets out in the cold need to increase caloric intake by eating more food.
Using straw for bedding is also the best idea, if the dog will be outside. Blankets get wet, which does not provide any warmth.
On Sunday, Porteous said her group rescued a dog, who she took home. She said the dog is very skinny and afraid to go outside.
“He will be out for not even a minute and start putting his feet up and start shivering,” Porteous said. “… They let you know, when they’re shaking and trembling and holding their feet up — that is their sign to let us know they’re cold.”
Bathroom breaks should be short, only a couple of minutes, Porteous said. Owners should beware that rock salt can hurt animal paws, too.
A yearly check-up is is also a good idea, so that owners can be sure their pets are in good health, Toole said.
Most stores sell “pet friendly” salt, which Porteous recommends.
Toole said: “I’ve noticed with my dog, I’ve noticed the salt is bothering their feet. I know you can get little booties for their feet at the pet store…and use pet friendly salt because regular salt will burn their (feet) pads.”
Porteous said if you are not equipped to have a dog in the house, you should think about surrendering it. The temperatures are too cold for animals to out in, even if they are in a dog house.
“I think a lot of dogs and cats probably died last night because of the weather,” Porteous said. “… I feel bad for the dogs and cats on the streets — the strays.”
For days when it is not as cold, dogs should be kept in an elevated dog house, with straw for warmth. Elevation can help keep snow out, however, when snow is deep, it will fill with snow.
Porteous reminds that an animal out in these low temperatures wouldn’t even be able to drink water because it would freeze too fast.
If pet owners are traveling in their vehicles with their furry friend, they should remember not to leave them in the cold car for long.
“It’s shelter, but it’s still cold,” Toole said. “If your dog is shorthaired, it’s not going to take long before it will cause damage. I would say the colder temperatures would be better than the hot temperatures.”
Though the Animal Rescue Network has been taking an unplanned break because of poor road conditions, Porteous said Oakland County crews have been saving animals in the cold.
“We called a bunch of different addresses in that we were worried about on Sunday (so they get rescued) … (Oakland County) is doing a great job.”
Toole said they do prosecute if it is warranted and when there are violations. She said most of the time it is a matter of educating owners.
There are an increase of calls for the Oakland County Animal Control when the temperatures drop. Those calls also increase when it gets too hot.
To report an animal in distress, call animal control at 248-391-4102.