Temps are about to get very, very cold here in Wyoming. Though we won't see the deep chill of -50 F from last year (at least, not yet), this weekend promises frigid temperatures dipping down into negative territory. Frozen fingers and runny noses are sure to plague anyone who has to be out in the snow and cold - and that goes for any animals, too.

Winter weather can prove hazardous to your pets. Shivering, frozen noses, and flaking skin are some of the mildest effects cold can have on animals exposed to icy temperatures. When temps dip below zero, your pets and livestock face serious illness and injury if unequipped against the elements.

How Can Cold Weather Hurt My Pet?

Frosty weather can lead to all sorts of nasty injuries and illnesses for exposed animals. Animals with excessive exposure to wintery conditions can develop:

  • Eczema and flaking skin
  • Cracked paws
  • Hypothermia
  • Dehydration
  • Asthma
  • Pneumonia
  • Arthritis

In extreme cases, cold exposure can lead to death - that's why it's essential that pet and livestock owners prepare for wintery conditions.

How to Protect Your Animals from Wyoming's Wintery Weather

Shelter First

A good rule of thumb for all animals is to provide them with adequate shelter from the elements. For smaller pets like dogs, that means bringing them inside. For horses and livestock, it might mean tucking them away into the barn or horse shed.

Outdoor cats or dogs? You can build them a shelter. Find a dry, draft-free enclosure large enough to allow them to sit and lie down but still small enough to keep the pet's body heat inside. Make sure the enclosure is elevated a few inches off of the ground and filled with straw or wood shavings. Face the enclosure away from the wind. The enclosure needs a waterproof covering for the entry.

Tips for Protecting Pets and Livestock

1. Bundle them up. Booties, coats, and wearable blankets for pets (including horses) provide the same protection for your furry friends as they do for humans.

2. Protect those paws. Ice-melt products and ice can harm your pet's paws. Use pet-friendly ice-melt to avoid injuries, and have your pup wear booties (yes, really) for their outdoor time.

3. The ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) urges owners to prevent dry skin by towel drying off any wetness when the pets come back inside. Address dry skin with a moisturizing shampoo or spray-on doggie conditioner. For horses, reduce bathing to as little as once a month and let their hair grow longer (if breed-applicable.)

4. Dress in layers. Short-haired pets can benefit from a sweater or coat both indoors and outdoors during chilly weather.

5. Keep pets and livestock hydrated. Dehydration is a serious risk in cold temperatures for all critters.

6. Know the signs of hypothermia in animals. According to the Red Cross, symptoms include whining or weighing, shivering, anxious, uncoordinated movement, moving slower than usual, or stopping frequently. If you detect signs of hypothermia, frostbite is only a matter of time. Take pets back indoors and get them watered. For livestock and horses, move the horse into the barn (if you don't have a barn, a garage can work) and contact a veterinarian right away if you suspect hypothermia. You can take steps to prevent hypothermia by adding electrolytes to their diets, improving the insulation of shelters, and keeping them fed with hay.

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