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Keeping Pets Safe from Winter's Wrath

Many of us are so weather weary from the harsh winter that we might make critical mistakes in caring for our pets.

Wilkes-Barre, Luzerne County -- Joe Baranoski of Wilkes-Barre took his 13-year-old dog Lily for a walk on Monday through the snow-covered grounds of Kirby Park in Wilkes-Barre. "Sometimes we'll walk over here for an hour, hour and a half. Even in cold weather and she seems to enjoy it very much." Lily likes it so much that she doesn't even mind getting a face full of snow. "She just likes exploring so she's sort of looks under the snow for treasures."

But Lily and other dogs and cats are not winter proof. "They're able to get frost bite so you know we still have to take precautions with them," said Plains Animal Hospital veterinarian Sara Dorman, VMD. She says dogs and cats typically can get frost bite on the tips of their ears and feet. One way to help keep them warm in the frigid outdoors is to put an extra layer on them. "So just, you know, even putting a sweater, they have dog coats that are certainly fine."

When it comes down to it, Dr. Dorman says animals are not better equipped to handle the harsh winter weather than we are. So if you're out with your pet, if it's too cold for you chances are it's also too cold for your furry friend. For long haired animals like Mr. Baranoski's Kerry Blue Lily, the extra fur seems to suffice at protecting her from the cold. "This breed has a very thick coat and it doesn't bother her . She would be discomforted by the sweater," he said.

Regardless of long hair or short hair, snow sticking to your pet is of equal concern. "We also have to be careful about snow getting stuck you know in their paw pads you know in the hair and also on the belly regions," said Dr. Dorman. Exposure to rock salt and some other ice melt products on their paws can also cause pets injury or illness. "It could cause some gastrointestinal upset if they ingest the salt later on or can even cause a little dermatitis or irritation to the paw pad area." Dr. Dorman recommends using a washcloth or a towel to clean and dry your pets' paws and help remove winter's danger to your four legged friend.

Animal welfare experts say pets kept outdoors in winter need proper shelter -- for example a dog house that's stuffed with straw or blankets and has a flap. For most pets, indoor accommodations are best when it's as cold as we're expecting it to get this week.

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