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When our pets are reluctant to go outside in the cold, we'd be wise to listen and not make them stay out longer than necessary. For the sake of their health, follow the tips below this winter.

Inside, make sure your pet has a warm place to sleep, off the floor and away from drafts. Outside, be aware that noses, ears and paw pads are at risk for hypothermia and frostbite. Short-haired dogs, young or old dogs, and cats of any kind should not be outside in freezing temperatures without supervision. Even dogs bred for colder climates shouldn’t be left outside when temperatures drop below zero.

Pets should only be taken on car rides on cold winter days if absolutely necessary. Never leave your pet unattended in your vehicle. Cold weather can turn your vehicle into a refrigerator and your pet can freeze to death.

To make the outdoors more hospitable for bathroom breaks, create an ideal potty area. Keep the area free from snow and big enough for your dog to sniff and turn around. The smells of previous bathroom trips will encourage your dog to potty in this space, while the snow-free ground will help prevent slips.

Even in winter, pets will appreciate the fresh air and exercise of a walk. Always keep your pet on a leash, as snow and rain can wipe away familiar scents, causing your pet to become disoriented. Don’t shave your pet in winter; longer coats provide warmth. Short-haired pets might benefit from a sweater or a coat. Some pet owners use booties to protect their pets’ feet.

Be aware of your pet's limits. Short-haired pets may become cold faster because of limited protection; short-legged pets may become cold faster because their bodies are closer to the ground. Pets with diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease or hormonal imbalances may struggle to regulate their body temperature. Arthritic and elderly pets may have more difficulty walking on snow and ice and be more prone to falls.

After a walk, wipe your pet off with a towel, paying special attention to the belly, legs and paws. Chemicals used to melt snow and ice can irritate the paw pads, cause mouth sores and even make pets ill. Paw pads might bleed if encrusted with snow or ice; an accumulation of either between the toes could cause lameness. Keep your home humidified; repeatedly coming from cold outdoor air into dry indoor air can cause itchy, flaking skin.

Keep your pet away from antifreeze. It contains ethylene glycol and is poisonous. If enough is consumed, anti-freeze can damage kidneys and cause death. Even stepping in it and licking it off their feet can cause your pet to become ill. Some preventative measures include: avoid imported snow globes as they contain antifreeze, clean up antifreeze spills from your vehicle, and wash your pet’s paws in soapy water after returning home from a walk.

Lincoln Animal Ambassadors wishes you and all your furry pet members a safe and warm winter.

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