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Deep freeze not kind to four-legged friends
Animals need to come inside when temps dip below freezing
Gabriel Rodriguez holds his puppy, Lola, under his jacket Friday to keep her out of the cold wind. - photo by Tom Reed

National Weather Service forecast

Today: Mostly sunny, with a high near 36. Calm wind becoming south between 5 and 10 mph.

Tonight: A slight chance of rain and sleet after 1am. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 30. Southeast wind 5 to 10 mph becoming west. Chance of precipitation is 20 percent.

Sunday: A chance of rain and sleet before 1pm, then a chance of rain. Cloudy, with a high near 41. Southwest wind between 5 and 10 mph. Chance of precipitation is 40 percent.

If it’s too cold for you, then it’s likely too cold for your furry friends, too.

Although factors like age, health and size can affect your pet’s ability to withstand today’s freezing temperatures, local veterinarians say that with the mercury hovering around freezing and the possibility of snow in the forecast today and Sunday, it might just be best to invite Fido inside for a spell.

Both veterinarians at Gainesville’s Animal Medical Care on Thompson Bridge Road and the Gainesville Veterinary Hospital tell their patients that when the temperature drops to 32 degrees, bring the pets inside.

"Pets in Georgia just have not had time to adjust to these cold temperatures," said Dr. Denise Funk, a veterinarian at Animal Medical Care.

Even if a dog can withstand a night out in the cold, the experience could have a negative effect on its immune system, said Ashie Hogan, a receptionist at Gainesville Veterinary Hospital.

"Anything below freezing is dangerous for dogs," Hogan said. "Just like you wouldn’t keep your plant outside, because it can freeze, you wouldn’t want to keep a living animal outside, either."

An animal’s size, health and age play a role in its ability to withstand the cold, Funk said.

"Generally, older animals or very young animals, they do not need to be out at this below freezing at all," she said.

A dog’s breed can also affect its ability to weather the cold.

"The ones with the big, thick-haired coats always fare better," Funk said. "Huskies ... they certainly want to be out in the cold, whereas our short-haired breeds and our smaller breeds, most of them come in their sweaters in this time of year."

If bringing pets inside just is not an option, Funk suggests buying a heated pet bed or making sure the pet has a house of its own, insulated with wood shavings or a blanket.

The important thing, she said, is to make sure animals are sheltered from the wind and rain.

"The wind and the wet really add to being cold," Funk said.

She cautions against using heated blankets designed for humans; pets could get burned or be injured chewing through the wires.

"They’re not safe," Funk said.

Even if your pet is equipped to withstand the cold, frozen water bowls could leave your pet at risk for dehydration.

Funk says a dog that usually gets plenty of fresh water can usually go 12 hours without water, but animals with health problems may not be able to go so long without it.

"If the dog has an underlying kidney or thyroid problem, it could dehydrate even faster in the cold, and it’s more important to have clean, fresh water that’s not frozen," she said.