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Echo Press Editorial: When temperatures plummet, remember your furry friend

When the weather turns brutally cold, don’t forget about your dog or cat. Although they have a built-in coat, they are at risk to the elements, too.

There have already been a few reports to the Alexandria Police Department and the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office this winter from residents concerned about dogs in their neighborhood without adequate food and shelter, or pets left shivering in a cold car.

There are some easy steps pet owners can take to make sure their dog or cat doesn’t suffer from cold-temperature related injuries.

“Weather related injuries are among the easiest to prevent,” said Dr. Jill Lurye, a board-certified internal medicine specialist with BluePearl Veterinary Partners in Minnesota. “By following these tips, people can help ensure their furry friends will remain a little safer this winter.”

With wind chills already plummeting to near 40-below this season, here’s some advice to keep in mind:

• Similar to when it is hot outside, never leave your pet alone in a car during cold weather either. In the winter, a car holds in the cold like a refrigerator and your pet could potentially freeze to death.

• Dogs and cats get frostbite. Any dog or cat that’s exposed to very cold temperatures for more than brief periods of time can develop frostbite. If pets begin to shiver or their ears, tail, and feet show signs of frostbite such as redness in the early stages and pale, white or patches in more advanced cases of frostbite, bring them inside immediately.

• Antifreeze is highly toxic to people and animals. Cats and dogs are attracted to its sweet smell and taste, and will often sample some if left out in a container or spilled on the garage floor. If you suspect that your pet has come into contact with antifreeze, contact your veterinarian immediately. The success of treatment to antifreeze exposure depends on quick action.

• Much like humans, damp and cold weather can aggravate symptoms associated with arthritis in dogs and cats. If your pet is having trouble getting up or lying down, walking the stairs, or has started to cry when being picked up, a visit to the veterinarian is in order. Never medicate your dog or cat with human prescriptions or over-the-counter medications without consulting your veterinarian first. Most of them are toxic for pets; numerous arthritis treatments are available for them. Also, your dog or cat deserves a comfortable bed. Several pet and feed stores carry safe heated floor mats or non-electric warm bedding.

• Pets need to have fresh water at all times. If you leave water outside for your pets, be sure it does not freeze.

• Outdoors on cold days, animals may seek shelter near something warm like a car engine. If an animal is near the engine when the car is started, serious injury can occur.

• Starting a car to warm it up in a garage will trap carbon monoxide. It can only take a few minutes for a small pet to die in a sealed garage with a car running.

• During winter months, rodents are often attracted to the warmth of homes. Make sure poisons and rodenticides are out of reach of pets.