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Freezing temperatures, frozen paws

Shelter, water and quality food are all key to keeping pets and livestock alive in the extreme temperatures this winter. Horses, cattle and other livestock primarily need something to break the wind in order to remain healthy in the severe cold, ...

Photograph of a snow covered cow standing in a snow storm. (iStock Photo)
Photograph of a snow covered cow standing in a snow storm. (iStock Photo)

Shelter, water and quality food are all key to keeping pets and livestock alive in the extreme temperatures this winter.

Horses, cattle and other livestock primarily need something to break the wind in order to remain healthy in the severe cold, said Dr. Kim Brummond, a veterinarian at West Dakota Veterinary Clinic in Dickinson. A lot of times these animals fare well in the cold so long as they have a break from the wind coupled with high-quality, high-energy food and water, she said.

These shelters can range from barns to even a line of trees or a hillside. The feed is also crucial to providing the animals with the energy necessary to sustain themselves in low temperatures, she said.

Alan Woodbury, the former owner of Woody's Feed and Grain Co., said ranchers tend to stick to their normal feeding schedules and did not see an increase in the amount of feed bought when the temperature drops. There usually was an uptick in ranchers buying protein blocks for their livestock in the winter in order to assist the animal in digestibility and intake, he said, but he did not notice an increase in the sales of other supplements.

Paige Burian, the director for district 5 for the North Dakota Stockmen's Association, said he worries about his cattle when the temperatures start dropping.

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"Absolutely I get nervous," he said. "This is our livelihood, you have to."

Burian also noted the importance of windbreaks. There is a line of trees that his herd hunkers down near this time of year, he said. He also checks his livestock's frost-free water tanks three to four times a day to ensure his animals stay hydrated.

"Water is always a huge deal too because no matter how much you're feeding right now you can get some blockages in the cattle if they're not consuming enough water," Burian said. "... Water is the most important thing no matter what you're doing."

His herd is not grain-fed, so he instead relies on hay as his primary food supply this time of year. He feeds a combination of quality and marginal hay noting that the lesser-quality hay can double as bedding if the cows decide not to eat it.

He feeds one 1,100 to 1,200-pound round bale per 30 cows at about 8 a.m. every morning - which they finish by about 1 p.m. or 2 p.m., he said.

On especially cold nights, such as this weekend, he said he plans to put out more hay by the tree line for his herd and to put down straw and junk hay for bedding. Though most of his cows were pregnant or calves, he said he was optimistic they were prepared for the cold months to come pointing out that these kinds of cows are more acclimated to this climate. They tend to pileup together at night as well to keep warm - though there are seldom instances when he does find a dead cow.

"The cattle came into this fall in great shape because we had a good summer, and we've only had winter for two weeks for the most part, so they're looking really, really good right now," he said. "We are feeding a lot of hay though too."

Pets can get frostbite in 10 minutes of exposure

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Dr. Jessie Evoniuk, a veterinarian at State Avenue Veterinary Clinic, recommended that animals that are generally indoor pets be kept inside and those that are outdoor pets be provided with a clean, sheltered area that they can access easily - such as a dog house that is large enough for the dog to turn around in and small enough to conserve heat, she said. Brummond said owners should consider an external heat source - such as heated pet pads-especially for outdoor animals.

"Generally the rule of thumb is if it's too cold for us, it's likely too cold for them to be outside," Evoniuk said.

Pet owners need to also be mindful of chemicals that their animals are at a greater risk of being exposed to in the snow such as antifreeze and salt on the roads, Evoniuk said. Owners should wipe off and clean their pet's paws when they come inside to protect them from burns, scratches and abrasions as a result of these chemicals in addition to cleaning out the snow and ice buildup on their paws.

While some short-haired dogs may need to come inside after using the bathroom, others may be better built for the wintery weather. Evoniuk said to keep an eye on pets, but that if they seem happy and not stressed by the cold conditions then to let them stay outside until they show signs of being cold and wanting to return indoors.

Pets can develop frostbite in as little as 10 minutes, just like humans, she said. Brummond said she had a cat come in this week that will need its paw amputated because of the cold. Smaller, younger and poorly nourished animals are especially susceptible.

"If you think an animal has frostbite or hypothermia where they're very cold, where they're acting sluggish or they're just not moving very well, I would certainly encourage them to consult with their veterinarian because there are a lot of things that need to be done in a very short period of time to save an animal that does suffer from hypothermia or frostbite," Brummond said.

Most livestock should be able to withstand the subzero temperatures so long as they have protection from the wind, quality food and water. (iStock photo)
Most livestock should be able to withstand the subzero temperatures so long as they have protection from the wind, quality food and water. (iStock photo)

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