With weekend temperature lows and wind chills expected to dip below zero, animal care officials are encouraging pet owners to bring their animals indoors and not expose them to the elements.

Matt Gerard, lead forecaster with the National Weather Service in Dodge City, said a northern cold front that passed through southwest Kansas area Friday night into early Saturday morning was expected to bring temperature highs from the upper teens to 20 degrees on Saturday and lows as low as 3 degrees.

Sunday is expected to stay in the middle teens for a high and a low of single digits to potentially as low as minus-4 degrees. The cold-packed days will bring frigid wind chills, with the Saturday wind chill ranging from minus-12 to minus-15. Gerard said Sunday’s wind chill is expected to be “even worse”, with an expected a low of minus-20.

Nikki Spanier, executive director of the Finney County Humane Society, said on Thursday that the most preventative measure in protecting your furry friends from the cold is to bring them indoors and not to leave them out over night when the temperatures reach their lowest point.

“Bring them inside, that’s the best thing for them,” she said. “It (cold weather) will kill them fast, so definitely bring them inside. It’s the best thing for the animal.”

Putting them in a garage to keep pets out of the elements is one option, Spanier said.

“That’ll keep them warmer and out of the weather,” she said. “Giving them blankets to sleep in, or hay. I know a lot of people that’ll use hay to kind of block the wind and provide some warmth… Just definitely make sure to keep them out of the wind and cold."

“If your animals can’t come inside, then make sure they have shelter, food and water and make sure their water is not frozen,” Spanier said. “Animals can’t get the water they need if it’s frozen.

Spanier added that an outdoor shelter for pets should block the wind and other elements, as well as retain warmth.

If an animal doesn’t have the proper shelter or food during days with bad weather, then the owner can be given a citation for the first offense, and then their animal(s) can be seized after the second offense, according to local animal control officers.

Thankfully, there haven’t been too many issues with reported pets being left in the cold, Spanier said.

“We’ve had a couple phone calls… Anything we can do to help the community and educate them is the best thing we can do,” she said. “We can’t go and pick up every animal and bring them inside, but we will do everything we can.”

She added that there was a cat in Scott City recently that was taken in to a veterinarian frozen and will now have to undergo two or three weeks of medical treatment.

Spanier said some of the risk factors to pets left out in the cold too long is hypothermia and frost bite, noting that animals can lose their limbs and tails if they receive severe frost bite.

Hypothermia in animals causes the body core temperature to drop, which causes more body systems to suffer from the effects of cold. According to petMD, the most important signs include slow to no pulse, slow breathing, cold skin, intense shivering, whining, seeming anxious, slowing down or stopping movement, seeming weak, looking for warm places to burrow, and low rectal temperature. Hypothermic animals may have several other problems, which are not easily detected, such as change in blood chemistry, irregular heart beat and dehydration.

If a person is concerned about an animal being left out in the cold, they are encouraged to call (620) 276-1300. Spanier said that is a number for police dispatch, who will notify the police department or an animal control officer.

“Let them know you have a concern for an animal, and they will send a patrol officer or an animal control officer who will make sure the animal is safe and is warm enough,” Spanier said, adding that if you prefer to remain anonymous, you can do so. “They don’t have to give their name, just give the address and let the officers know there is a concern… If you see an animal running down the street, you can bring it into the shelter or call the number and they will pick it up, that way they’re not stuck out in the cold.”

Contact Josh Harbour at jharbour@gctelegram.com.