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posted: 2/7/2013 10:09 AM

How to keep your pets healthy in winter

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  • Donnie, a 3-year-old, male, wire-haired terrier mix, seeks a forever home. Visit, for information.

    Donnie, a 3-year-old, male, wire-haired terrier mix, seeks a forever home. Visit, for information.
    Courtesy of The Buddy Foundation

  • Ernie, a 5-pound, male Chihuahua, is about 8 years old. He is looking for a place to call home. Visit for information.

    Ernie, a 5-pound, male Chihuahua, is about 8 years old. He is looking for a place to call home. Visit for information.
    Courtesy of The Buddy Foundation

By Ellaine Kiriluk
The Buddy Foundation

We made it. Temperatures in the area have dropped to the teens and single digits, several inches of snow have fallen and we're counting the wind chill factor. Blustery winds, ice and winter storm watches. Winter has arrived in February.

When it's cold outside, we need to take special precautions to keep our pets safe. It's as cold for them as it is for us. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Humane Society of the United States,, and the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine offer winter safety suggestions to help us keep our animals warm and safe in the cold winter weather.

Take extra care of elderly and very young pets -- they are most susceptible to the effects of cold weather. If your dog will tolerate them, coats and sweaters, with a high collar or turtleneck coverage, with coverage from the base of the dog's tail to the belly, do help your short-haired dog. But since pets lose most of their body heat from the pads of their feet, their ears and their respiratory tract, the best way to make sure they're comfortable in the cold weather is to watch them closely. Never shave your dog down to the skin in the winter; it makes sense, longer coats provide more warmth.

Never let your dog off the leash on snow or 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 your dog always wears ID tags. If you're near a pond or lake, keep them on lead. Animals can fall through the ice easily and it's very difficult for them to get out.

When you come in out of the sleet, snow or ice, wipe off your dog's paws, legs and stomach with a washcloth. Dogs can pick up salt, chemical ice melts and ice in their foot pads. The salts and other ice-melting chemicals can be irritating to your dog's skin and mouth since he can ingest the salt or chemicals while licking his paws. Signs of ingestion of these chemicals include excessive drooling, vomiting and depression. Your dog's paw pads may also bleed from the snow or encrusted ice.

After being outside, also check your dog for signs of hypothermia. These signs include: shivering, low body movement, muscle stiffness, lethargy, shallow breathing, a weak pulse rate and disorientation. If you suspect your pet has hypothermia, seek veterinarian care immediately.

Frostbite is also a concern for dogs during the cold weather. Frostbitten skin is red or gray and may slough. Common practice is to apply worm, moist towels to thaw out frostbitten areas slowly until the skin appears flushed. Consult your veterinarian as soon as possible for further care.

Dr. Petra Volver, a veterinary toxicologist formerly at the University Of Illinois College Of Veterinary Medicine, Urbana, reports antifreeze can be deadly. Pets may ingest antifreeze because it is reported to have a sweet flavor. Signs of a toxic reaction include initially drinking and urinating a lot, depression, vomiting, rapid breathing and eventually kidney failure. So, keep it out of reach and make sure your car isn't leaking any on the garage floor. The HSUS and ASPCA suggest using an antifreeze-coolant made with propylene glycol (rather that ethylene glycol). If it's swallowed in small amounts it will not hurt pets, wildlife or family members.

Brookelynn Nitzkin, information specialist at the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine reports dry skin may be an issue for pets as well as people during the winter months. If your dog scratches a lot and there are flakes of skin, bathing him with a shampoo that has oatmeal as a main ingredient may soothe the skin. You can also try adding a fatty acid supplement to his meal or supplements of vitamins A, D, E and K. Ask your veterinarian regarding these practices.

Our older companion animals need special consideration and attention during the cold winter months. Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine suggests elderly, arthritic pets become stiff and tender quickly and may find it difficult to move about in ice or snow. If there is ice where you are walking, keep them tethered tightly to your side, as a bad slip can cause a ruptured disc, broken leg or major injury.

As much as we want to spend time with our companion animals, the ASPCA cautions never to leaver your dog or cat in a car during cold weather. A car can act as a refrigerator in the winter, holding the cold and causing the animal to freeze to death. The HSUS also reports warm engines in parked cars attract cats and small wildlife, who may crawl up under the hood. Bang on your car's hood to scare them away before starting your car, to avoid injuring any hidden animals.

In addition to protecting your own animals, the HSUS reminds us to keep an eye out for other animals exposed to the winter weather. Ashley Mauceri, The HSUS's deputy manager for animal cruelty investigations reports, "The act of leaving a pet outside without food or adequate shelter often receives less attention than a violent attack against an animal, but neglect is a crime. Especially in these cold months, it is important for people to bring their pets inside and for others to report neglected animals to law enforcement." Report what you see.

Inside the house, our companion animals need extra attention in the winter season. The ASPCA suggests making sure our animals have a warm place to sleep, off the floor and away from all drafts. A cozy dog bed with a warm blanket or pillow is the perfect place to nap.

Winter weather may be here with blowing winds, freezing temperatures and snow storms. But any weather is great weather, when you're walking with your dog.

Birthday Party

The Buddy Foundation's Birthday Party is almost here. Join us to celebrate our 18th Birthday Feb. 28 at Moretti's, 1799 S. Busse Road. Mount Prospect. Join us for a sumptuous buffet, birthday cake, a fast paced raffle and auction, along with music and entertainment.

• For information call the Buddy Foundation at (847) 290-5806 or visit the shelter at 65 W. Seegers Road, Arlington Heights, or online at