COVINGTON -- The weather outside might not be "frightful" as the song goes, but it can get darned uncomfortable for man and beast alike if exposed to the cold temperatures long enough.
Lori Todd of Mutts & More, an animal rescue and adoption agency that works with Animal Control in both Rockdale and Newton counties, is urging citizens to be mindful of their pets' comfort and safety as temperatures become colder.
"To tether a dog out in any weather is a terrible thing to do," she said, adding that there is an ordinance in Rockdale County against simply tying a dog outside and leaving it, although placing an animal on a run is permitted. In Newton County, a dog may be tied outside but a dog house, not a crate or box, must be accessible, according to Newton County Animal Control.
"My personal opinion is if you have a dog, it should be housebroken so it can at least be able to come into a sheltered area when weather is not good. By ordinance you are supposed to provide adequate shelter and water. But it's best to let the dog be part of the family."
Todd said it's important to look for symptoms of illness, such as nasal or eye discharge, sneezing, coughing, retching, etc., so it can be dealt with quickly before the animal becomes really sick.
"Going out once a day to check on a dog is not sufficient because you might miss health problems or if something is bothering the dog," she said, adding if your dog is left outside most of the time, specific quality time should be spent with the animal daily. "You can save yourself some money by being proactive in their care instead of reacting when they become ill."
Todd said comfortable and dry bedding should be provided within the shelter and checked often to ensure it remains dry. Bedding can include cedar shavings, any material that will keep a dog warm such as discarded rugs, bedspreads or similar items, or even non-electric heated mats.
Water should similarly be checked often. Pets need a supply of fresh drinking water at all times.
"Even in our weather, water will freeze and it can become stagnant and dogs can get disease from that," she said. "It should be changed frequently."
Todd said owners frequently assume if the dog is large, it can withstand any type of cold weather, or that putting a sweater or coat on a small dog will keep them warm enough.
But any animal needs to be acclimated to cold temperatures and fluctuations in Georgia temperatures often work against that.
"We'll have a cold snap and a lot of times dogs are not acclimated to that weather and it's not a healthy environment for them," Todd said. "A lot of large breeds are prone to things like arthritis and hip dysplasia, which are aggravated by cold weather. And putting a coat on a small dog in no way protects its little paws."
Experts warn that dogs and cats can get frostbite if left outside for long periods of time in very cold temperatures. Watch for signs such as shivering or redness of ears, tail and feet.
And although dogs should never run free, it's important to watch for hazards such as frozen ponds which adventurous and inexperienced pets will often try to cross if they get out of fencing. Sometimes if the pet goes in, an owner or child will follow trying to rescue the animal and tragedy strikes.
Other cold weather tips from Georgia Veterinary Specialists include:
-- Be careful to keep dogs and cats away from spilled antifreeze. It is highly toxic to animals and humans.
-- If dogs or cats have access to vehicles, check to make sure they are well clear before the engine is started. They are prone to get as close to a warm motor as possible.
-- Don't warm up the garage for pets by turning on the car motor. It takes only a few minutes for enough carbon monoxide to be emitted to kill a small animal.