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Associated Press

Critters can suffer in the cold

Fort Wayne Animal Care & Control on Thursday offered these winter cautions for pet owners:

FROSTBITE:

Frostbite is a serious condition caused by the freezing of a body part or exposed skin. For dogs and cats, the tips of their ears, their tail, and the pads of their feet are most susceptible. When frostbite occurs, the skin may be pale, there may be swelling or itching of the affected part.

If you believe your pet has frostbite, warm the damaged area with a gentle spray of warm water. Although the affected area may lack pain initially, it may become very painful when the area starts to warm up. Be careful not to rub or apply pressure. Transport your pet to the veterinarian for further care and to determine the extent of damage. Sadly enough, if the tissue had died, local amputation may be required.

SHELTER, FOOD AND WATER:

For pets that spend time outside, especially while the owners are away from home, warm shelter must be available at all times. Pets left unattended in the cold without proper shelter should be reported immediately to Animal Care & Control, whether it is day or night.

A proper shelter will be just large enough for a dog to enter, turn around, and lie down comfortably. Provide straw or wood chips to reduce heat loss through the floor and to act as bedding for your dog to snuggle in and build up warmth. Elevate the house to keep snow from tracking in; secure a door flap to the opening and face it away from the coldest northern winds. A dog kept inside an unheated garage must also have a proper doghouse.

Check the footpads frequently and remove any ice or salt that may have accumulated. Check for ice cuts as well.

Animals' will burn up far more calories when they are outside trying to stay warm. Feed your dog at least 25 percent more during the winter than other times of year. Water is critical to prevent dehydration. A heated water bowl or bucket will keep your pet's water from freezing. If you need to use an electrical extension cord, make certain it is covered so your dog won't be able to bite into it.

When temperatures and wind chills drop below zero, animals should be brought inside for safe keeping.

BECOMING LOST OR INJURED:

Snow and ice does increase the chance of a pet becoming lost and not finding their way back home. Keep identification on your pet's collar at all times and invest in a pet microchip. If your pet does escape your yard or home, call the shelter at 427-1244 for guidance. As always, cats will live a much longer and safer life if kept inside the home.

CAR ENGINES AND ANTIFREEZE:

During cold weather cats allowed outside frequently creep into the engine compartment of cars seeking warmth. To prevent a cat from possible injury or even death, knock on your car's hood or sound the horn before starting out. Be cautious with antifreeze containing ethylene glycol, which is toxic to animals. Look for antifreeze products with propylene glycol, which is a safer choice to use in homes with pets.

With a little advanced planning and supervision your pet will have a safe, comfortable winter.

To learn more about Animal Care & Control and see animals up for adoption, check out its Web site.

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