Polar vortex – two words which are, at the time of writing, sending a deep chill through many Americans, and disrupting their day-to-day lives on an unprecedented scale. For those of us in the business of pet transportation, the current icy spell is presenting a whole heap of challenges.
As if this cold snap wasn’t bad enough, forecasters say that unseasonably warm conditions could soon replace it! So let’s look at this twin challenge. First, how to keep our pets safe and comfortable in the bitter cold. Then, how to quickly transition to the more temperate weather which we’re told is on the way.
What is the polar vortex?
The Guardian offers a handy definition of this weather phenomenon. They say it’s “a band of strong winds high up in the atmosphere that keeps bitterly cold air locked around the Arctic region.”
So far, so unremarkable. But when the polar vortex shifts further south, over some of the most densely populated parts of the US, it spells trouble.
To put the conditions into context, Chicago was only 10 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than Antarctica on Wednesday, January 30. The forecast for the following day showed the maximum temperature would reach no higher than -5.8o Fahrenheit (-21o Celsius).
If wondering how to transport a pet across the country in these unearthly conditions, you’re not alone. But before we present the pet transportation options available, let’s first look at the risks that the weather poses.
How does the cold affect pet safety?
We’re used to hearing messages urging us to keep our pets safe in extreme heat. And yet, it rarely occurs to us that our furry friends also suffer when the temperature heads south.
As the foremost authority on animal welfare, the American Veterinary Medical Association has published a 16-point guide to looking out for the safety of dogs and cats in harsh weather. It includes the following tips:
- Get your pet to a veterinarian for its regular health check. This will highlight problems such as arthritis, which can be worsened by cold weather.
- Consider shortening the length of a walk. It’s not just that elderly dogs might slip and fall. Even the younger, healthier animals risk contracting various medical conditions by staying out in the cold.
- Check your vehicle before starting the engine. Looking for a warm spot, cats often hide under a car or beneath the hood. Before rolling out, bang the hood to warn away any sheltering pets.
- Layer up your pets. A dog coat or sweater can do a valuable job in keeping short-haired pets from catching a chill through getting wet.
- Go on paw patrol. There can be lots of hidden dangers to a dog of walking on ice. The frozen stuff can gather between their paw pads. To prevent this, closely trim the part of their coat around the paws, and check the paws for ice accumulation after every walk.
- Feed them regularly, but don’t overdo it. Storing up some “winter bulk” can be dangerous – try to have your pet’s weight within a healthy range. If kept outdoors, however, a pet will need more calories in wintertime.
Don’t think trouble’s over once the freeze goes away
As soon as it’s arrived, a cold spell can be over, but a rapid thaw can bring just as many dangers as the ice and cold themselves.
First off, you need to be aware that any ice-covered area hides plenty of risks – not just the slippery top surface. You might think that you know the local sidewalks like the back of your hand, but curb edges end up hidden under a layer of snow. This provides plenty of opportunities to trip up while out walking your dog.
Of course, you can never really tell how thick any layer of ice actually is. Worse still is that that inviting layer of smoothness is like a magnet to energetic, playful dogs. But a man in Trenton, NJ faced this danger first-hand, fighting for his life after chasing his dog, which had strayed onto a frozen canal.
When the thaw bites
Once the sun gets to work on those ice-covered surfaces, you’re faced with a whole new set of problems. Keep in mind that the sun won’t reach very high in the sky, so you will still need to wrap up your dog warm when out on a walk.
Rising water levels, swelled by the ice thaw, present a major hazard: Familiar walking routes become more difficult to access. Plan your walks carefully, avoiding any currently ice-covered waterways or the paths alongside them.
While the ground is still frozen, there’s nowhere for the thawing ice to go. This means you’ll likely encounter lots of major puddles when taking Rover out for a walk. The advice, then, is to watch your step and never lead your dog across an area of ground where you’re not sure what’s underneath.
Get used to weather fluctuations
Just as the freeze seemed set to give way to warmer weather, one Waterway Agency official in Chicago sounded an alert suggesting that the see-sawing conditions some regions have seen are likely becoming “the new normal”. This disturbing prediction makes it clear that the issues outlined above barely scratch the surface.
One thing’s for sure, though. For as long as the weather allows, there will be a small army of dedicated folks taking to our roads every day, meeting the nation’s needs for safe and affordable pet transportation.
So if your travel plans haven’t been scuppered by snow or ice, and you’re headed off to spend time at a winter retreat, you can take the hassle out of bringing your furry friends along. Take a look at what CitizenShipper’s community of drivers has to offer, and find a pet transportation option that’s right for you.