The wind chills early Wednesday morning reached -45. This made the ambient temperature of -34° go from frigid, to downright bone-chilling. For many people, trying to stay warm when the temperatures get to those marks can be a challenge. For animals, it can be even more so of a challenge to stay warm when they get outdoors.

Kristin Caldwell is Chief of Veterinary Operations with Prairie Animal Health Centre. She explained for pets who head outdoors, there are a few things owners need to keep an eye on.

“Frostbite on the tips of the ears, tips of the tails, even in their toes,” Caldwell said were one of the things to watch for, adding frostbite on the toes is also a possibility. The trips outside to do their business will be a lot shorter than normal.

While they may be reluctant to go outside, they do need to go to the bathroom, Caldwell added, which means keeping an eye on them and getting them back in as quickly as possible.

For some pets, such as a number of dogs in rural areas, they are outside all the time. This brings about a separate set of challenges for pet owners to be concerned with.

A key one is having adequate shelter.

“We want to see dogs with insulated dog houses,” Caldwell said. “You can even take some straw bales and line them around the outside of your dog house for extra insulation.”

She cautioned against heat lamps or heat sources, as pets can burn themselves. She recommended instead to use heating mats, as well as heated bowls for food and water, which will allow for the water to remain ice-free, and available for the pets.

For concerns about frostbite, Caldwell said it can be harder to identify the signs. She explained the ears will start to droop a bit, but feel is the easiest way to tell, as they will be cold to the touch. Pet owners should also look for animals trying to find a way to tuck their tail to keep it warm. If it appears to be painful for the animal, then it may be too late.

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