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Tips to keep your pet safe in cold weather

With the polar votex on its way, pets need extra consideration. Just as dogs and cats and bunnies can't be left out in the heat of the summer, cold and snowy days pose their own risks to beloved pets.

The experts at the MD SPCA offer the following tips for pets and cold:

- Pets shouldn't be left outside for extended periods of time when it's cold. If it's too cold for you, it's too cold for your pet.

- Watch for cats! Outdoor cats sometimes seek shelter near warm car engines and sleep under the hoods of vehicles. If the engine starts, the fan belt can kill the animal. If there are outdoor cats in your neighborhood, bang on the car hood before starting up the motor to let the cat escape.

- Never let your dog off-leash in the snow or ice -- he can become disoriented and lost, even in a familiar place. More dogs are lost in winter than any other season: be sure yours has an ID tag, microchip, and sturdy leash.

- Take a minute to wipe your dog's legs and stomach when he comes in from a walk in the sleet, snow, or ice. He might ingest salt or chemicals when grooming himself, and his paw pads might crack and bleed from snow or encrusted ice.

- Never shave a dog down to skin in the winter. A longer coat offers warmth. Consider a coat or sweater for shorter-haired breeds.

- Just like in the summer, never leave a pet alone in the car. A car can act like a refrigerator in the winter, holding in the car and causing your pet to freeze to death.

- Offer more food to dogs who spend a lot of time outdoors in the cold. It will help keep them, and their fur, healthier.

- Antifreeze is poison for dogs and cats. Clean up any spills and consider using products that contain propylene glycol instead of ethylene glycol.

- Offer your pet a warm place to sleep that's off the floor and away from drafts. A cozy bed with a blanket is perfect.

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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