Like most of you, I have pets that I love like family!! I also have livestock. I always believed that I must prepare my animals for cold winter weather just like I make sure I get out my coats when it starts to get cold. This information provides simple and common sense ideas that I have found helpful through the years.
One of the most important things to do is to provide adequate shelter and water. These can both have their challenges during cold weather. I provide shelter for my animals year-round, even though we do not get the very cold freezing weather in Texas that other places get. I have three-sided sheds for my miniature cows and donkeys that I designed to give them shelter from the cold north winds. I have a barn with inside space for my miniature goats, livestock and guard dog to escape the weather. In the winter, I still make additional plans – even with our typically warmer climate.
Here are some things to consider:
Water – We do occasionally get freezing weather that lasts for more than one day. Since I fill my water tanks with garden hoses and outside faucets, freezing temperatures means I may not be able to refill them for a day or two. Therefore, I add multiple water tanks. I’m able to break the top ice on each tank several times which keeps the tank from totally freezing over for a while. I can do this for several days and still have water available for the animals until the hoses can be used again.
Shelter – If the weather is calling for freezing nights, I may add bedding to the shelters to help insulate them from the ground. They certainly like bedding down in it when it is cold. I also have heat lamps available in the barn and wired to hang above the inside pens, so if I have young animals or sick ones, I can put them inside a warm area when it gets cold. It is a good idea to clean these heat lamp fixtures before cold weather as they can get covered with dust, etc during the non-use months. You also need to make sure the bulb is still good. These heating bulbs can be hard to find at the last minute when you really need one. Texas stores do not keep a lot of these in stock, so they go fast when it gets cold.
Feed – I feed my animals more during the cold months as they burn more energy to stay warm. I also need to compensate for the lack of good grass this time of year in this area, so I keep hay available at all times. Most of my animals seem to eat all their feed immediately during colder weather. When it is hot they may leave some in the dish for later. Buy extra and keep it handy.
Be Attentive – Pay attention to your animals, and take a good look at them – they can get colds too. Look for runny noses and runny eyes; these can be signs of illness in animals just like in people. If they do not clear up for an extended time period, check with your vet.
Know your animals – I can’t say this enough – every breed has different requirements. My miniature donkeys grow more hair when it gets cold, but my miniature cows are a breed that does not grow much hair. They are smart enough to sleep close together in the shed to share warmth. They sleep so close that sometimes it looks like they are just in a big pile! The miniature goats do this too.
Pay attention to the forecast – You need to plan to have the extra bedding or extra water tanks in place and ready before the freeze hits. You may also need to cover your outside faucets and disconnect the hoses to prepare for a freeze.
House dogs – They may be inside most of the time, but they still need to go out occasionally. Make sure you monitor their time outside; put on a coat and go out with them. If you get too cold to stay outside even with your coat on, then it is time to bring them in too. They may need additional water to drink – the heater in your house dries out the air and their skin, just like yours. Keep their water dish full all the time. Try to schedule more indoor playtime since they may not get to run outside as much. Fetch with a new treat or toy may be enough. Schedule bath time for the warmer part of the day and, after drying them off, wrap them in a dry towel or blanket for a little while to keep them warm until they dry completely. You may also want to change to a shampoo that has some conditioner or lotion for their skin, depending on the breed of course. This also gives you more time to pay attention to your pet, which may be hard to do during the holidays. My little dachshund loves her blanket – she loves to wiggle her way under it and curl up there for her naps.
When you are buying gifts for your pets, remember all the rescues that take care of so many pets, and donate some food, toys or other useful items to help the homeless pets too.
Or, better yet, volunteer to help out at a shelter near you!
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to two-legged and four-legged creatures everywhere!