Caring for animals in winter months

Published 4:57 pm Monday, October 24, 2011

By DR. FRED SELF / Veterinarian

This time of year, we are thinking about the various holidays that will soon be here and the football games we plan to watch.

Whether we realize it or not, along with those topics we contemplate the upcoming cold weather and how we will participate in our favorite activities without getting frostbitten.

Sometimes, though, we forget that our pets and livestock also have to deal with the coming weather change. Because they will be spending more time in the cold weather than we will, it is important to plan ahead for their care.

Just like during the summer, it is top on the list to maintain fresh, drinkable water for our pets and livestock. In the winter, this may mean remembering to fill the bowl or trough, but it may also involve breaking up an ice layer and or replacing frozen water with some in a liquid form.

More appropriate for livestock, there are many good devices that can be used to keep water from freezing. Where pets are concerned, it is better to make an inspection of water bowls once or twice a day and provide water when necessary.

For indoor pets, changing the amount and type of feed used during the winter is of little importance. However, for livestock and outdoor pets, it can be helpful to increase either the energy content of their diet or the amount of feed they get daily. The energy content of a feed and the amount of a feed consumed control the production of heat in the body. In the winter using the food you feed to help provide body heat can be important.

Housing is also high on the list of things to address for winter. Most pet houses and barns are open and airy to provide ventilation. They also tend to be poorly insulated. For the winter, it is important to provide some form of insulation like wrapping a dog house in a tarp and placing it near your house to cut back on incoming cold breezes. Keeping barn doors and windows shut when possible and covering the sides of stalls with blankets can be helpful.

It is important, however, to avoid space heaters and light bulbs that can start fires.

Even though our pets and livestock had ancestors who dealt with changing weather conditions on their own, it is our job to ensure as many factors are controlled for our furry friends as possible.

Dr. Fred Self is a veterinarian at Shelbiana Animal Clinic in Columbiana, along with Dr. Charles Thornburg. You can reach them at 669-7717.