From Across the Field – Keeping Safe and Warm this Winter

It has been a frigid start to 2018 across much of the country, with temperatures hovering around zero here in our corner of the Buckeye State. That being said, it if often a hazardous time for both people and pets once temperatures drop.

Managing the cold weather for our pets can become a challenge. If possible allow them to seek shelter in a barn, garage, or consider bring them into the home if house trained. At the very least we should provide some insulation to them in there pen or box. Straw makes a good winter insulation for multiple species, both pets and farm animals alike. For some animals such as equine friends, blankets will provide some protection from the elements. Perhaps most importantly make sure all animals have access to clean thawed water and feed, in order to remain at or near a positive energy balance. I find with dogs, feeding a feed with a greater percentage of fat helps maintain body condition throughout winter. However as always, consult your veterinarian before making changes to your pet’s diet.

This is a good time to go ahead and replace all of the batteries in your smoke detectors. This is especially important this time of year when we may use supplemental heat. When using supplemental heat, it is important to have a carbon monoxide detector and make sure it is in working order. Unfortunately, in the winter months, we often hear not only about homes catching fire, but people dying from carbon monoxide poisoning. Carbon monoxide is called the “Silent Killer” as it is a tasteless, colorless, and odorless gas. It is produced by motor vehicles; small gas engines found in snow blowers, and generators; home heating systems of every sort and fuel type, whether it be wood or fossil fuels, including natural gas and kerosene.

The threat of carbon monoxide poisoning occurs during cold weather with ventilation being reduced to help retain the warmth from heat sources and heat sources either not being used properly or not being in proper working order. Also, when preheating a vehicle, make sure that your garage door is open to allow the exhaust to escape. The best prevention against carbon monoxide poisoning is the installation of carbon monoxide detectors that sounds an alarm when the gas is present. It is best to install a detector on each level of the home.

Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include headache, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, confusion, and chest pain. These symptoms are similar to those of other ailments, and therefore carbon monoxide poisoning can sometimes be difficult to recognize. However, if multiple individuals in the same home become ill with the same symptoms when heat sources are operating that is a very good indicator of carbon monoxide poisoning. When left untreated, the result can be unconsciousness, coma, or death. If you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning, go outside immediately and call 911! If others are not able to exit the dwelling, open doors and windows to help the gas escape while awaiting assistance from emergency responders. It only takes a few minutes to check or a few dollars to provide protection.

I’ll end this week with a thought from Eleanor Roosevelt who said “You must do the things you think you cannot do.” Have a great week and a happy New Year.

Garth Ruff,
Agriculture and Natural Resources Extension Educator
OSU Henry County Extension

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