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Keep your paws dry

Pets, like people, should be bundled up in cold weather

Pets, like people, should be bundled up in cold weather

February 08, 2008|By TIFFANY ARNOLD

Cuteness was only part of the reason Perdita, the 1-year-old beagle mix, was wearing a dark denim coat.

Perdita's owner, Geneva Horchner, put it on the dog because short-haired pooches need protection from the cold.

And because Perdita looks cute in the coat.

"I like to go out and get 'em all kind of little sweaters, coats, little booties so their paws don't get cold," said Horchner, a Hagerstown resident.

Pets, like people, need to be protected from the cold, especially short-haired pets. Snow and ice can damage paws. For dogs with short hair, wetness can seep beneath the coat, down to the skin.

"A dog can get sick from getting cold just like we do," said Debbie Porterfield, Humane Society of Washington County's manager of animal care and customer service.

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Put yourself in your pet's shoes - er, paws.

If you think it's cold (or wet) enough for you to grab a coat, your pet should probably have one, too. Or if the path seems too slippery for you to walk, it's probably not safe for your pet, either.

"I'm a big fan of using humans as a standard," said Rose Fiskett, a veterinarian at the Animal Health Clinic of Funkstown.

As far as household pets go, dogs are the most susceptible.

"Cats, using the good sense God gave them, will go find shelter," Fiskett said.

Horchner and her husband Scott said they've both owned dogs in the past, but Perdita, whom they recently picked up from the Humane Society, is currently the only dog in the house. They also have two cats and a pet fish.

Horchner's husband hasn't always agreed with what she has bought for the dogs. Things might be different with Perdita.

"He thinks I go a little overboard," Geneva Horchner said.

"No, I don't think 'a little.' I think 'a lot,'" Scott Horchner said. "That's why we had to get a girl. You just can't do that to a boy dog."

So what would happen to a boy dog in the Horchner household? Scott Horchner explained how he dressed a dog he used to have.

"I got my retriever a wet suit thing so he didn't get cut up while we were hunting," Scott Horchner said. "I also got him boots so he didn't tear up his paws."

Winter weather do's and don'ts for pets

With the temperatures dropping and the wind picking up, the Humane Society of Washington County is reissuing an alert for pet owners and offers the following do's and don'ts:

· Don't leave your pets outside in severe cold.

· Don't leave out antifreeze and other dangerous chemicals. Small amounts ingested over time can cause severe health problems or death for dogs and cats. If you suspect your pet has ingested a chemical, call your veterinarian or poison control, or call the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animal's 24-hour emergency hotline, 888-426-4435. There will be a charge to your credit card for each call.

· Bang on your car hood and blow the horn before starting the engine. A warm engine might attract small animals looking for heat.

· Supervise your pet's time outside and keep it short. Put a doggie sweater or coat on short-haired dogs to help keep them warm.

· Make sure outside pets have access to a dry, draft-free dog house raised a couple of inches off the ground and facing away from the wind. The dog house should have sufficient bedding and should be large enough for the dog to sit and lie down comfortably but small enough to hold body heat.

· Also, for outside pets, check their water bowls. Remember to clean and fill them daily. Use a plastic bowl instead of metal because the pet's tongue might stick to metal in the cold. Heated water bowls are inexpensive and will keep water from freezing.

· Wipe your pet's feet with a damp towel to remove salt and chemical residue after walks. Salts can irritate your pet's feet.

· If you are feeding wild birds, be sure to remember to refill the feeders and make sure their water source is clean, filled and not frozen.

- Source: Humane Society of Washington County

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