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Winter weather woes

Protect your pets from the cold, snow

Published: Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2014 2:54 p.m. CDT • Updated: Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2014 2:58 p.m. CDT
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(BCR photo/Goldie Currie)
With the bitter cold temperatures, pet owners are advised to pay close attention to how much time they are letting pets spend outside. Bureau County Animal Control Officer Scott Robbins said pets should not be out any longer than 15 minutes when temperatures are lingering around zero degrees. It's also necessary to check pets' paws and ears, as they are easily apt to get frostbitten if exposed to dangerous weather for a period of time.

Editor’s note: This is the second segment in a series on problems caused by winter weather and some solutions in preventing those problems.

PRINCETON — The subzero temperatures Bureau County recently experienced made life just a little less bearable with the dangers it created for people, pets, homes and vehicles. The temperatures are finally back above zero, however, the winter months are far from finished. This series is meant to bring attention to safety measures on various items affected on those bitterly cold days.

Protecting your pet

When the temperatures linger around zero or below, Bureau County Animal Control Officer Scott Robbins recommends a time limit of no more than 15 minutes for pets to be outdoors. Any longer on a bitterly cold day could be dangerous for the animal. This means pet owners should stand at the door and be on guard of how long they are leaving their pet outdoors.

If someone sees what looks like a stray dog running out in the cold, contact the Bureau County Animal Shelter immediately. Robbins said the faster the call comes in, the faster animal control can get out and help recover the animal. If the number to a local animal shelter is unknown, call a local veterinarian’s office or the local sheriff’s department who will contact animal control.

Robbins also suggests:

• If a pet is considered an “outdoor pet,” owners should make sure the animal has adequate shelter for protection from the winter elements. Old blankets or straw can be used inside their shelter to help keep it warmer. Robbins said insulation can be put on the outside of the shelter, as well, to give it that extra protection and warmth.

• Robbins said even though it’s cold out and there’s snow on the ground, pets still need water to drink. Make sure the pet’s water is not frozen, and also consider feeding an outdoor pet up to three times a day with protein enhanced food, which can help keep its energy up to stay warm.

• Pets’ paws can get frostbitten and can also get caught on sharp ice and could potentially tear. Robbins recommended pet owners keep a close eye on their pets’ paws after they’ve been out in snow and ice, especially if the pet comes in from the outside limping or not walking normally. There are also animal booties that can be purchased to help protect pets’ paws.

• Besides paws, ears are another part to carefully watch on the pets. Robbins said pay attention to signs of frostbite after the pet has been outdoors for a period of time.

Princeton Animal Care Clinic Veterinarian Dr. Stuart VandeVenter said the first signs of frostbite can be when the animal’s ears are tender to the touch and painful, which is usually accompanied by redness or swelling in the area. Look for discoloration, such as blue or gray areas, around the ear. If the ears have frostbite, they will feel brittle, hard and leather-like.

VandeVenter said if the ears are frostbitten, the damage could be reversed depending on how much of the ear has died. Sometimes tips of the ears can be healed and recovered if caught soon enough. Otherwise, if the frostbite is not caught soon enough it could cause permanent damage, and even result in the loss of the animal’s ears.

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