Keep pets inside; watch for 'hidden dangers' in snow

Sometimes the best winter safety tips can be the easiest for both people and pets.

“Stay indoors,” was the refrain for people throughout a day of subzero temperatures Monday, and “keep pets indoors” was the main advice suburban veterinarians and animal shelter operators had for owners trying to their keep dogs and cats healthy.

“No dog should be left outside for any length of time,” said Sandy Kamen Wisniewski, founder of Animal Education & Rescue in Libertyville.

Animal experts across the area said they have not yet dealt with an uptick of pets with frostbite or hypothermia, but both conditions can strike furry friends, especially on extremities like the tips of their noses, ears or paws.

Any indoor/outdoor cats should be kept inside all day when temperatures are extremely cold. Dog owners should still take their canines out so the animals can relieve themselves, but bathroom breaks should be limited to a couple of minutes at the longest, said Dr. Jeffrey Sutarik of Lombard Veterinary Hospital.

When dogs do go out, people should dress them in doggy coats or sweaters and protect their paws with booties, Sutarik said. Sweaters are especially good for smaller dogs, but all animals can benefit from a covering for their paws to help prevent cuts from jagged ice or irritation from salt used to melt snow.

Dr. Shannon Greeley, past president of the Chicago Veterinary Medical Association, said area animal hospitals are seeing a rise in pets with injured pads or paws from “hidden dangers” under the snow.

“Those 'hidden dangers' are metal, glass, edges of things that can cause severe pad/paw injuries,” Greeley said.

Pet owners who don't have bootees for their dogs should at least make sure to wipe the animal's paws and warm the pooch up immediately after returning inside, Sutarik said.

Another winter weather danger for dogs is the antifreeze often used in vehicles and snowblowers.

“It's on the poison list for animals,” said Lesya Kertheval, adoption manager at Anderson Animal Shelter in South Elgin. “The main ingredient has an inviting aroma that attracts animals, but it's poisonous.”

The substance should be kept in closed containers out of pets' reach, and spills should be cleaned up quickly to prevent dogs from lapping up the liquid, experts said.

Monday's frigid temperatures caused adjustments in animal care at forest preserves and shelters across the region. Horses at Danada Equestrian Center near Wheaton were brought inside for shelter, even the draft horses that usually prefer to be outdoors. Staff members and volunteers at West Suburban Humane Society in Downers Grove kept dogs in an indoor play room instead of outside like usual while their runs were being cleaned and Anderson Animal Shelter canceled its volunteer dog-walking sessions Monday.

Aside from keeping pets indoors and protecting paws, animal experts also encourage people to be on the lookout for animals out in the cold.

“If there is an animal being left outside,” Animal Education & Rescue's Kamen Wisniewski said, “report it right away.”

  Mundelein resident Sandy Groves bundles up as she walks her Sheltie, Mandy, during the brutal cold Monday. Temperatures stayed below zero throughout the day. Gilbert R. Boucher II/
  Animal experts say the best way to keep pets safe in the extreme cold is simply to keep them inside. Veterinarians Dr. Adam Schanding and Dr. Jeffrey Sutarik from Lombard Veterinary Hospital put an insulated coat and bootees on Millie, a yellow lab mix. Scott Sanders/
  Dr. Jeffrey Sutarik slides a bootee on Millie, a yellow lab mix, while Dr. Adam Schanding adjusts MillieÂ’s insulated coat Monday at Lombard Veterinary Hospital. Coats or sweaters and bootees can help protect dogs from frostbite paw injuries during extremely cold temperatures, veterinarians say. Scott Sanders/

Pet safety tips

Animal experts say the easiest way to keep pets safe during subfreezing temperatures is to keep them inside as much as possible. Here are other tips from suburban veterinarians on how to keep dogs and cats healthy in the cold.

• Limit dogs' time outside to short bathroom breaks

• Keep all indoor/outdoor cats inside

• Dress your dog in bootees to prevent cut paws

• Put on a doggy coat or sweater, especially for smaller breeds

• Wipe dogs' paws after walks

• Keep antifreeze closed and out of dogs' reach; quickly clean up all spills

• Report all animals seen left outside to animal control authorities

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