Published: February 8, 2014
As a fierce freeze has gripped the region and much of the rest of the country, animal lovers have rushed to protect pets and livestock.
Veterinarians say the smaller the animal, the higher the risk of freezing to death. In dogs and cats, shivering and lethargy are the first two signs of trouble.
"The smaller you are ... the quicker you will lose body heat," said Dr. Douglas G. Aspros, immediate past president of the American Veterinary Medical Association.
Subzero wind chills have been widely registered, and Aspros says they are a big factor because wind strips heat from pets faster.
If you need to warm a shivering animal, a quick and easy way is to heat a towel in the dryer and wrap it around the animal.
Many animals will be comfortable if they're moving but get cold when they slow down, said Dr. Brian Collins of the small animal clinic at Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine.
"They may refuse to walk because their feet are so cold," he said. "They might alternate picking up their feet because they don't want to leave them down too long. I have seen little dogs just fall over. They will pick up one, two and three feet and fall right over."
Cats are probably the most resourceful animals in the cold, and feral cats are particularly hardy because they are so used to the outdoors, said Becky Robinson, president and founder of Alley Cat Allies in Baltimore.
But in this kind of weather, a helping hand could save a lot of lives, she said.
She says Samaritans have been making cheap, outdoor shelters with plastic tubs or foam coolers set off the ground and lined with straw. Blankets gather moisture, she said, and will freeze, so they use straw. She recommends putting water in plastic, rather than metal, bowls, with a pinch of sugar because it doesn't freeze as quickly, she said. It still has to be refreshed often, though.
The vets warn drivers to check before starting cars because cats, domestic and feral, are drawn to warm engines and car hoods. An open clothes dryer is a warm spot that could lure an indoor cat, so keep the door shut.