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Polar vortex: Do these 7 things to protect your pets from cold weather

Polar vortex: Do these 7 things to protect your pets from cold weather
[Photo: Flickr user Andrey Shkvarchuk]

Millions of Americans are facing dangerous temperatures and bone-chilling wind chills this week as a polar vortex unleashes a pattern of disruptive weather on much of the eastern United States. Some areas in the Midwest are expected feel wind chills of minus 50 degrees, so this is pretty serious stuff.

And it’s not just humans who will suffer. Even on the most frigid of nights, people often leave their pets out in the cold, where they risk freezing to death. In the wake of this week’s dangerous weather conditions, the Humane Society of the United States is urging pet owners to remember their furry friends. The group has  released a seven-pointa tip sheet, which I’m sharing in the bullet points below:

  • If it is too cold for you, it is too cold for your pet; don’t assume that your dogs’ fur protects them from the weather like your insulated jacket does.
  • Remember that extremities need protection too. Just as you would need mittens and a hat, your dogs’ extremities will be cold too.
  • Restrict outdoor time when the weather is inclement. No pet should ever be left outside for long periods of time in freezing weather, and all animals need a warm, inside shelter from the elements overnight and at all times during inclement weather.
  • Protect pets from cold-related dangers like road salt and antifreeze, which can be toxic. Rock salt and other chemicals used to melt snow and ice can irritate the pads of your pets’ feet. Be sure to wipe all paws with a damp towel before your pet licks them and irritates his or her mouth, and check your pets’ feet and pads to look for any chapping or cracking. Dog boots can help protect from these irritants.
  • Heated beds and pads can be helpful, but they must be used with caution. Check frequently to make sure there are no exposed wires that could cause a fire, and do not leave these items on when you are not at home to monitor them.
  • Keep your cats indoors year-round, only allowing them outdoors under direct supervision or when safe inside a catio.
  • Cats (and some wildlife) will take advantage of a warm car engine in winter and may still be under your car’s hood hours later. Bang on the hood to scare them off before starting your car. Consider making an insulated cat box so they have somewhere warm to retreat.

You can check the Humane Society’s website for more pet safety tips and also to find out what you should do if you if you see a pet left out in the cold.

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