Keeping Furry (And Feathered) Friends Safe During The Polar Vortex

Jan 30, 2019

Whether wild or domesticated, animals are profoundly affected by the cold. Just like with humans, exposure can lead to frostbite and hypothermia in very little time. 

Anne Reed, president and CEO of the Wisconsin Humane Society, says the best thing to do for pets and domestic animals in this kind of weather is take them inside. 

"Any arrangements you have made for your animal to be safe outdoors in cold weather - you didn’t make them for weather like this. Indoors is the place for your animal to be," she says.

READ: Three Tips To Keep Your Pet Protected This Winter 

Reed says when taking a dog outside to use the bathroom, keep paws protected by using booties or, if the dog won't tolerate wearing booties, vaseline. If you have animals that are outside, like chickens, they should already be in an insulated coop. Crystal Sharlow-Schaefer, a member of the Humane Society's wildlife rehab team, suggests trying to insulate it further. Hay bales can work, as well as space heaters. But if you use the latter, make sure it can't come into contact with any bedding. 

Despite our best attempts, however, animals may still be out in the cold too long and could become sick or injured. 

"For frostbite, you're looking for any discoloration especially on the skin, you're looking for blisters and swelling," Reed says. "... For hypothermia you're looking for shivering and trembling, you're looking for lethargy; is your animal cold to the touch?"

If you're concerned your animal has been outside too long and was injured wrap them in a warm blanket and head to the emergency vet. If you find a stray dog or cat outside, try to get them inside and warm. If you can't find the owner, call the Milwaukee Area Domestic Animal Control Center (MADACC) at 414-649-8640.

If you see a wild animal that appears to be injured or sick, call the Wisconsin Humane Society Wildlife hotline: 414-431-6204.