A domestic dog wearing a sweater with a scarf.
Myah Hogan | The Collegian

Myah Hogan
JRMN 151

Ryan Bennett an LCCC student, age 21, who is majoring in Computer Science Engineering, will now think and possibly buy his dog a pair of booties after hearing about the outside dangers that could harm his dog’s feet. Bennett said, “I own a Siberian husky named Everest. I think animals shouldn’t be left outside for a long period of time. I do walk my dog during the wintertime, but I do not have protection for her feet. I will consider buying booties for her now knowing the possible dangers.”

Words from a veterinarian

Dr. Frank Krupka, age 47, one of the owners, along with being a veterinarian, of the Avon Lake Animal Clinic, said, “It’s not so much as the temperature outside, it’s about freezing temperatures. When it gets below 45 degrees, there is going to be a risk of the animals becoming hypothermic. An animal should not be left unattended, but wind is our biggest factor. That is why wind-chill is important when talking about the weather. It’s all about getting out of the wind.”

Animals need the right materials, such as shelter, during the winter months just like people do. It is preferred that animals stay inside in a warm environment during the winter, but if the animal must be kept outside or in the garage, it will need a specific kind of shelter. The type of shelter that should be provided should keep the animal out of the wind and should be made from a thick material to keep the animal from getting wet. When asked what type of shelter should be used, Dr. Krupka said, “I prefer one that wind will not blow into. So, a doghouse that allows the animal to walk in and turn to go into another area, so there is no wind tunnel blowing right into the house. So, a four-sided structure with a door and a little bit of an alley way which will allow the animal to get out of the wind.” If animals are subject to wind along with cold temperatures, they are at risk of hypothermia. “Hypothermia is the first thing we notice along with frostbite. We see frostbites at extremities, like the tips of the ears, and then obviously hypothermia as in just getting too cold in general,” said Dr. Krupka.

“About clothing materials”

Animal safety is not just about the type of shelter, it is also about the clothing materials along with what animals should be wearing on their feet, such as booties, in order to ensure pet health. When pets are taken outside during the winter season, their paws encounter salt and harmful chemicals. This can be detrimental to an animal’s health, especially when it is ingested. “Paw protection is about a lot of different things. Some of it is about salt exposure. Some of it is about chemical exposure that comes from walking on sidewalks. Other parts of it is about the sharp ice. So, it is not so much as the boots protecting them from the cold, it is more used to keep them safe from traumas like the sharp ice and salt” said Dr. Krupka. When it comes to buying booties for an animal’s feet, the booties should have grip to it or be made from a non-slip material. This will ensure that the animal stays safe when walking on icy sidewalks and roads. This is an important factor when it comes to animal health because the salt from the sidewalks can cause erosions or ulcers on the bottom of the animal’s paws. Dr. Krupka said, “The salt can actually cause erosions or ulcers to the feet, so in order to avoid this, we just need to rinse off their feet when we get back home, but if the animal is wearing booties you can skip this step.”

When it comes to slippery ice, we see a lot of hazards with orthopedic injuries. We see knee injuries and back injuries just like if a person were to slip on the ice.” An animal’s fur should also be left alone because the more protection from the cold, the better. If an animal has a specific style that consists of shaving their fur down, a coat or a sweater would make a great substitute. Although, it is stressed that all animals should be bought sweaters or winter coats along with being given extra blankets during winter weather, Dr. Krupka said, “If a person is going to get a dog groomed and give the animal a short coat, we need to make sure that we put a sweater on them or some type of wind block. Just a light jacket on them will keep their core body temperature warmer. If the animal is going to have extended amounts of time outdoors, it would be a good idea to buy the animal a coat so that they have some type of insulation.” According to Morgan Lisaula, age 23, another student who attends LCCC and is majoring in Nursing, owns one dog and although she sees this information as being insightful, will only consider buying her dog a coat. Lisaula said, “Yes, I have one dog named Koda, his breed is a boxer and no, I do not really think about animal safety because during the winter months my dog does not get much outside activity. I rarely walk my dog during the wintertime. Now knowing this information, it is definitely concerning, but I feel like I’ve never had these complications with any of my animals in the past or currently. So, I believe I will let my dog wear a coat this upcoming winter.”

Animals may get dirty during these cold months, but should we bathe them? According to Dr. Krupka, “So, obviously we don’t want to take the dog outside shortly after a bath. You are getting into their under coats and getting rid of some of their natural insulation by doing a good bath and combing routine, so just make sure the animal is good and dry before taking them outside.”

When an animal is cold, the animal will use up more energy in order to stay warm. When this happens, food portions may need to be increased depending on the breed or on how the individual animal is fairing. “They are using up more energy just to stay warm especially if they are being housed outdoors. I am unsure if indoor dogs use up that much more energy, but then again it all depends on the type of animal. We necessarily do not have to increase food portions, the only reason I would consider shortening up food portions is if the owner decreases the activity level. We typically see 10% weight gain over the winter. It is not that the animals are eating more, it’s that they are less active. So, if the owner is not as active with their pet over the winter, that’s where we can potentially be dealing with some weight gain, but the animals still need to be active, they need to be running around and be just as active even though it’s cold outside. But again, it all depends on what the individual animal needs, so owners should make sure they are paying attention to what their pets need just in case they do need to increase their animal’s food portion.”

Beware of antifreeze

Antifreeze is highly dangerous for any animal and animals should be closely monitored when outside in order to avoid them accidently ingesting it. Antifreeze is a liquid, typically one based on ethylene glycol, used in the radiator in an internal combustion engine, to lower the freezing point of the cooling medium in a motor vehicle (Dictionary.com). Dr. Krupka said, “Antifreeze is a huge risk, it doesn’t take much antifreeze to kill an animal. It causes their kidneys to shut down. But antifreeze is always a risk. During the Spring, Summer and Fall we have antifreeze toxicity potential as well because people are working on their cars. Antifreeze is always in our vehicles meaning it is always a risk. Animals are attracted to it because it has a sweet taste and unfortunately if they find a puddle of it, they will drink it because of it having that sweet taste.”

Animals are more susceptible to outdoor injuries than they are of becoming ill during the winter months. It is important to make sure the animal has scheduled exams along with having a winter wellness exam, especially if it is a senior pet. The winter wellness exam is important because an animal may become sick before winter or may have a health issue and if it is not caught early on, the animal may struggle during the cold months or have a drastic decrease in its health. Dr. Krupka said, “Frostbite is when the animal gets red and inflamed tissue around the ear margins which can lead to the tissue cracking and then falling off. So, that would be a traumatic injury to the animal. Broken nails and cut feet will obviously resolve in bleeding. There is far less bacterial and viral spread in the wintertime outdoors just because of the environment. So, we tend to see less contagious diseases during the wintertime and more of traumatic injuries. All pets should receive regular wellness exams. With senior pets, twice a year is a good idea and if it is a young active animal, I do not think a winter exam is needed unless there is some medical ailment that is happening.”

Even if a person does not own any animals, they still need to be on the lookout for outside animals. Stray animals use the hoods of cars, along with hiding underneath them for warmth and shelter, which can cause serious harmful injuries if people do not notice them soon enough. According to Dr. Krupka, “Sometimes we see dogs and cats both get up into the hoods of cars trying to seek heat in there. So, if we know there are animals in the environment that would be seeking shelter in the hood or where there’s a warm area, check in those places before you start up the car. We have seen fan blade injuries a lot.”