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Pets require special care in winter weather

Temperatures along the Wasatch Front are dropping and will continue to go down as winter sets in. The Humane Society of Utah reminds pet owners this means inconvenience, discomfort, and danger for everyone, including non-human members of the population. Animals' coats do not provide adequate protection against the bitter cold that will be punishing our area, and the society urges people to take the following precautions with their pets:

Keep cats inside. Outdoors, cats can freeze, become lost, injured or killed. Cats that are allowed to stray are exposed to fatal diseases, including rabies. They also prey on songbirds and other wildlife.

During the winter, outdoor cats sometimes crawl under the hoods of cars in an effort to keep warm. When the motor is started, the cat can be injured or killed by the fan belt. If there is any chance that a cat may have sought shelter under your car's hood, always bang loudly on the hood before starting the engine to give the animal a chance to escape.

Animals who must spend much time outdoors, including livestock, need proper shelter. Cats and dogs must have snug, well-insulated houses. Pets that are very young, very old, ill, or short-haired breeds, should not be kept outdoors at all.

Animals need extra calories and protein during the winter because they consume more energy just maintaining normal body temperature. Water bowls must be emptied and re-filled frequently to keep ice from forming.

Injuries resulting from the cold, such as frostbite, ice cuts or hypothermia (severe chilling) should be treated immediately.

If you own a short-haired breed of dog and want it to have outdoor exercise, get a coat or sweater with a high collar or turtleneck that covers the dog from the base of the tail on top to the belly underneath. This may seem like a luxury, or even a silly affectation, but it's not. For some dogs, it's a vital necessity.

Never let your dog off the leash in snow and ice, especially during a snowstorm. Dogs can lose their scent and easily become lost. More dogs are lost during the winter than during any other season, so make sure they always at least wear ID tags, and, preferably, have a microchip.

Antifreeze is extremely attractive to pets, and also extremely toxic. All spills should be immediately and thoroughly wiped up.

Thoroughly wipe off your dog's paws, legs, and stomach when it he comes in after being out in the sleet, snow, or ice. It He can ingest salt, antifreeze, or other chemicals while licking itselfhimself, and his paw pads may also bleed from injuries caused by elements in the outdoor environment.

Just as you should never leave your pet in the car in the summertime, never leave a dog or cat alone in the car during cold weather. Just as a car acts like an oven in summer, it functions like a refrigerator in winter, holding in the cold. The animal can freeze to death.

For more information on cold-weather pet care call the Humane Society at 261-2919.