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Make sure pets are ready for cold weather

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By The Staff

With much cooler temperatures expected in the next few days, it's important for homeowners to protect their pets just like they do their water pipes. Here are a few cold-weather pointers to consider:

•Cats are very susceptible to the cold and can freeze if left outside whenever the mercury in the thermometer plunges. Keep them inside whenever possible. Also, stray cats have a tendency to hide under car hoods to keep warm. Bang on the hood before cranking your car to alert cats to get out so that they don't get injured.

•Make sure your dog's identification tags are current. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), more dogs are lost in winter than any other season because colder weather affects their sense of smell, limiting their ability to track their own scent.

•Keep a constant check on your dog's paws. Blisters and cuts can occur during prolong exposure to the cold. You may want to consider putting a slight coating of petroleum jelly on their paws during colder days as an added measure of protection.

•You don't leave your dog in a car in summer for fear of them overheating and you should do the same thing in the wintertime. A vehicle can act as a refrigerator and may freeze a pet to death.

•Despite their fur coats, some dogs feel cold more than others. Short-haired dogs can benefit from a sweater and long-coated breeds shouldn't be shaved down to the skin during the winter months to allow for more fur insulation.

•If you bathe your pet during the winter, make sure to dry him or her thoroughly before going outside. That way, your pet won't catch a chill.

•Puppies can be especially sensitive to the cold, making house-training especially difficult. Be patient with puppies and older, housebroken dogs who should only be taken outside briefly to relieve themselves.

•Keep antifreeze properly stored and away from pets. It is a lethal poison and dogs are drawn to its sweet smell. Any time you spill antifreeze in your driveway, make sure to thoroughly clean it up.

•Make sure your pet has a cozy place like a blanket or filled pet bed to sleep on away from drafts and a cold floor.

•Don't skimp on flea and tick protection in winter months. Warm indoor air can incubate flea eggs on a pet's coat, making them hatch.

•Most pet birds are tropical varieties and will not tolerate severe temperature drops well. Keep bird cages away from drafty windows and frequently opened doors.