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Cold weather warning for pet owners

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For the past few years we Chicagoans have been pretty blessed with better than average weather conditions. Well the 2013-2014 Winter is about to change all of that! The worst of it is the cold that we are experiencing and if you think humans are cold, just consider what your pet’s paws feel like stepping out onto the ice and snow!

Just as a reminder of how to protect your pet in weather such as what we are experiencing, Dr. Robyn Barbiers, a veterinarian and the President of The Anti-Cruelty Society (TACS), Chicago’s oldest and largest animal welfare organizations wants to pass along some very useful tips to adhere to.

Cold Weather Tips

Bring All Pets Indoors: The Anti-Cruelty Society recommends that all of your pets live indoors with you. If you do have a pet that spends most of its time outdoors, bring them indoors during sub-zero temperatures. Frostbite can set in very rapidly and may lead to death. Most dogs need to go outdoors to eliminate. Make their time outdoors as brief as possible by allowing your dog to eliminate and then bring them back indoors.

Frostbite: Even though companion animals have a fur coat, most cats and dogs cannot endure the cold of winter for more than 10 to 15 minutes. A companion animal left outdoors can get frostbite and even freeze to death. Signs of frostbite include skin that is pale and cool to the touch, with decreased sensation in the affected area. If you suspect frostbite, gently warm the area with warm--not hot--water and then take the animal to your veterinarian. Once an area has been frozen it becomes more susceptible to cold and frostbite.

Ice, Salt, and Snow: Jagged ice and sidewalk salt can injure or irritate your dog's foot pads. After you return home from a walk, check the foot pads and wipe off any salt or ice with a damp towel. Also dry your dog thoroughly whenever he or she comes in from the snow.

Anti-Freeze: Animals are attracted to this substance by its sweet taste. It can be fatal if ingested, so keep all anti-freeze bottles out of your pet's reach. Also be sure to clean up any spills in your garage or driveway immediately. If your cat or dog should swallow anti-freeze--or any poison--contact your veterinarian immediately.

Car Engines: In cold weather, cats allowed outdoors may crawl beneath cars and climb up inside the engines seeking warmth and shelter. This can lead to injuries or death when the engines are started. To prevent such an occurrence, keep your cat indoors at all times. To protect stray cats, knock on your car's hood or sound your horn before starting the car in cold weather.

It’s the Law: According to The Illinois Department of Agriculture Bureau of Animal Health and Welfare, “If your dog lives outside, your dog must be protected by a dry, draft-free doghouse that is large enough to allow the dog to sit and lie down comfortably, but small enough to hold in his/her body heat. The floor should be raised a few inches off the ground and covered with cedar shavings or straw. The house should be turned to face away from the wind, and the doorway should be covered with waterproof burlap or heavy plastic.

In addition, if you have a pet that likes to be outside a lot, make certain that you compensate by feeding the animal extra helpings of food. You will also want to routinely check your pet’s water dish since water will freeze almost instantaneously in this severe cold. As an added precaution, and one many of us would not even think about until it was too late, feed your outdoor pet with plastic rather than metal food and water bowls. When the temperatures drop this low, your pet’s tongue can stick and freeze to the metal.

If you see an animal in need or witness an animal being mistreated around the city, please contact the TACS humane investigators at abuse@anticruelty.org or call 312-644-8338 ext. 304.If you live in the suburbs, phone the local shelter, animal control or police department for some assistance!

Keep your beloved furry friend safe this winter from Mother Nature!

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