ELKINS - With bitter, subzero temperatures predicted to move into the area early next week, officials urge residents to remember to make sure their four-legged friends are warm as well.
According to Kevin McGrath, staff meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Charleston, the Elkins area is expected to see a high of zero degrees on Monday and Tuesday. Overnight temperatures are reported to be between -10 and -20 degrees, with up to -45 degree wind chill factors.
Cold temperatures, wind and precipitation can take its toll on pets and livestock. Some of the threats to outdoor animals in cold weather include frostbite, hypothermia, parasites and even antifreeze poisoning.
The Inter-Mountain photo by Tim MacVean
Third Street Trading Co. employee Holly Conklin works to remove snow from the storefront in downtown Elkins on Friday morning. Snow blanketed the area Thursday night.
Frostbite can affect the ears, feet and tails of dogs and cats, as well as horses and livestock.
Dr. Eileen J. Lammie, a veterinarian with All Creatures Great and Small in Elkins, said, "Most problems with horses and cattle are that they get a wet undercoat and they can't trap body heat in."
Hypothermia by itself can be detrimental to an animal's health, but it can also increase problems caused by parasites. When the temperature drops, so does the animal's blood sugar. Whipworms in dogs can complicate circulation, cause bloody stool and even be fatal if not treated with IV fluid and proper circulation support.
Antifreeze is widely used during cold conditions. It is very sweet-tasting and attractive to cats and dogs, as well as children. Antifreeze is very toxic and can cause kidney failure, so people are urged to use extreme caution to avoid spills when using it.
Wind can be particularly dangerous to animals. Dr. Tonya White, a veterinarian at Appalachian Animal Hospital in Elkins, said, "The most important thing is shelter away from the wind. Wind chill is even worse than the cold weather."
Providing animals with an external heat source is beneficial, but it must be done without them being burned or risking carbon monoxide poisoning. Residents can also provide animals straw bedding that they can use to snuggle into to keep warm. Also, pet owners should make sure that their animals have extra food along with fresh, unfrozen water, as calories can be burned rapidly while just trying to keep warm.
Officials urge people to bring animals inside if possible, especially young, old and ill animals, as they have a harder time surviving in the brutally cold temperatures. It also helps to know the temperature threshold your animal can withstand safely.
"Know your breed and your animal's coat condition," Lammie said. "Some can take more cold and wind than others."