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Protect Pets From The Big Chill

As we enter the bitter days of winter, pet owners should remember that cold weather can be as hard on animals as on people. The American Animal Hospital Association offers the following tips for keeping your pets warm and safe this winter:

  1. Take your animals for a check-up before winter kicks in. Your veterinarian can check for any medical problems that might make them more vulnerable to the cold.
  2. Keep your pets inside as much as you can when the mercury drops. If you must leave your pet outside, be sure to provide appropriate shelter against the wind, thick bedding and non-frozen water.
  3. Some animals are more vulnerable to cold than others, depending on their size, age and health and the thickness of their fur. Regardless of their condition, no pets should stay outside for unlimited amounts of time in extremely cold weather.
  4. Pets that go outside can accumulate rock salt, ice and chemical ice melts in their foot pads. To keep pets' pads from getting chapped and raw, wipe their feet with a washcloth when they come inside.
  5. Cats will curl up against almost anything to stay warm - including car engines. Before you start your engine, check beneath the hood or make a lot of noise by honking the horn or rapping on the hood.
  6. If you light a fire or plug in a space heater, remember to keep it safely out of range of tails and paws. Pets can either burn themselves or knock a heat source over and put the entire household in danger.

Frostbite and hypothermia are dangerous possibilities in the winter. Frostbite happens when the ears, paws or tail get cold enough that ice crystals form in the tissue and cause damage. If you suspect frostbite, bring your pet into a warm environment immediately, soak the extremities in warm water for about 20 minutes, and visit the veterinarian.

Hypothermia, or a body temperature that is below normal, occurs when animals are overexposed to cold temperatures. Symptoms can range from shivering and lethargy in mild cases to stiff muscles, low heart and breathing rates and unresponsiveness. If you notice these symptoms, you need to warm your pet and seek immediate veterinary care.

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