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Winter pet tips from HSOC

Here comes the frigid weather and our humane officers are busy with calls about animals outside. In many areas, winter is a season of bitter cold and numbing wetness. Extra precautions during winter months will make sure four-footed family members stay safe and warm.

Help pets remain happy and healthy during the colder months by following these simple guidelines:

Keep pets indoors and warm

Don't leave dogs or cats outdoors when the temperature drops. Most dogs, and all cats, are safer indoors. No matter what the temperature, wind chill can threaten a pet's life. Regardless of the season, shorthaired, very young or old dogs and all cats should never be left outside without supervision. Short-coated dogs may feel more comfortable wearing a sweater during walks. The best way to keep pets safe (and happy) is to keep them with you.

Take precautions if your dog spends a lot of time outside

A dog or cat is happiest and healthiest when kept indoors. If for some reason your dog is outdoors much of the day, he or she must be protected by a dry, draft-free shelter 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.

Help neighborhood outdoor cats

If there are outdoor cats, either owned pets or community cats in the area, remember that they need protection from the elements as well as food and water. It's easy to give them a hand.

Give pets plenty of water

Pets who spend a lot of time outdoors need more food in the winter because keeping warm depletes energy. Routinely check your pet's water dish to make certain the water is fresh and unfrozen. Use plastic food and water bowls rather than metal; when the temperature is low, your pet's tongue can stick and freeze to metal.

Be careful with cats, wildlife and cars

Warm engines in parked cars attract cats and small wildlife who may crawl up under the hood. To avoid injuring any hidden animals bang on the car's hood to scare them away before starting the engine.

Protect paws from salt

Salt and other chemicals that are used to melt snow and ice can irritate the pads of a pet's feet. Wipe all paws with a damp towel before your pet licks them and irritates his/her mouth.

Avoid antifreeze poisoning

Antifreeze is a deadly poison, but it has a sweet taste that may attract animals and children. Wipe up spills and store antifreeze (and all household chemicals) out of reach. Coolants and antifreeze made with propylene glycol are less toxic to pets, wildlife and family.

The best tip of all: keep your pets with you

Probably the best prescription for winter's woes is to keep your dog or cat inside with you and your family. The happiest dogs are those who are taken out frequently for walks and exercise, but kept inside the rest of the time.

Dogs and cats are social animals who crave human companionship and need to stay indoors in the winter to stay warm and safe just like another member of the family.

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