Horse Owners Reminded to Plan for Winter Hazards

As winter progresses, the Michigan Department of Agriculture (MDA) reminds animal owners to plan for routine winter hazards. All pet and livestock owners must ensure an adequate supply of feed and water for their animals, as well as shelter from the wind and other elements.

"Recent winter weather conditions and frigid temperatures are a reminder of Michigan's unpredictable weather," said Steve Halstead, DVM, MDA state veterinarian. "Both pets and livestock are impacted by the harsh conditions during Michigan winters and their owners need to take steps to respond to inclement conditions to ensure the health and safety of their animals."

Adopted by the Michigan Commission of Agriculture, the Generally Accepted Agricultural and Management Practices for the Care of Farm Animals has specific guidance on cold weather care of livestock species. Some general precautions include:

  • Ensuring access to water that is not frozen
  • Increasing feed to provide the energy bodies need to stay warm
  • Providing shelter to allow animals to escape the wind and heavy snow
  • Caution around icy areas to prevent falls and injuries

Companion animals, particularly dogs and cats, are also impacted by severe winter weather. Animals kept indoors might have great difficulty adjusting to outdoor winter temperatures. Other winter precautions for companion animals include ensuring:

  • Access to water
  • Access to shelter that is dry and free of drafts
  • Protection from de-icing chemicals, which can irritate skin; and antifreeze, which tastes sweet to animals, but is extremely toxic

Along with winter weather practices, another safety precaution includes preventing pets from having contact with electrical cords.

"With the holiday season upon us, tree lights and other decorations can be a danger to your pets," said Halstead. "Be sure to keep cords and other decorations off the floor and out of reach from family pets. Also, use extreme caution when using portable heaters around animals as heaters pose a potential burn hazard to animals as well as a general fire hazard."

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