Protect pets when it's cold out

The official first day of winter isn't until Dec. 21, but temperatures in the Wichita area have been dropping, and you never know when we might have ice or a snow storm. (Remember last Christmas Eve?)

Dogs and cats may have furry coats, but that doesn't mean they're well equipped to survive out in the cold. Short-coated dogs and cats, and very young and very old animals are especially vulnerable to dangers like hypothermia and frostbite.

The best place for your pet when it's cold outside is inside with you.

Local veterinarian Teresa Burks offers these tips to help keep pets safe and warm over the winter months:

Provide adequate shelter. Doghouses should not be much bigger than the dog so that the dog's body heat can warm it. Provide plenty of warm, dry bedding. And be careful of heat lamps, which are a fire hazard.

Keep your pet supplied with fresh water. If the pet's water bowl freezes over, you can use a heated water bowl or add fresh water three to four times daily.

Salt from chemical ice melts can be toxic. Wash your pet's feet with warm water after a walk. Safe Paw ice melter, available at most pet stores and hardware stores or at, is safe for children and pets.

Be careful of antifreeze leaks. Antifreeze is sweet, and just a small amount ingested by your pet can lead to irreversible kidney failure and death. If you suspect that your pet ingested antifreeze, get to your veterinarian as soon as possible. If treated in the first two to four hours, your pet can be saved. If clinical signs of kidney failure develop, the treatment options are grim. Pet-safe antifreezes are available. See

Outdoor pets may require more calories, so increase their food consumption. Indoor pets may be less active during winter months and may require less food.

An indoor option? Small dogs may not like to go out in inclement weather. Provide them with potty pads and/or a litter box to prevent bad habits of eliminating inappropriately.

Be careful of ponds and other bodies of water that freeze over in winter. The ice may not be thick enough to support your pet's weight. And if it does not support your pet's weight, it probably won't support yours. Don't become a victim. If your pet is in danger, call for emergency assistance.

Keep up the exercise routine. Weather too nasty to take your pet for a walk? Get out of the house and visit your local pet store, where you can take your pets for a walk inside. It may not be as good of a workout as a long springtime walk, but it sure beats sitting on the couch.

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