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How to keep pets safe from the bitter cold temperatures

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EAU CLAIRE (WQOW) - The bitter cold doesn't just cause problems for humans, it can be dangerous for our pets too. When the thermometer falls below zero, it's important to take extra steps to keep your furry loved ones safe.

Cold weather poses threats to both outdoor and indoor pets. Dogs can get hypothermia from playing outside and going for walks in sub-zero temperatures, and Veterinarian Todd Leavitt with Oakwood Hills Animal Hospital said when it's cold, you should take your dogs for shorter, more frequent walks.

Take extra care of your dogs feet in extreme cold. In addition to wiping your dog's feet when they come inside, Leavitt suggests using ice melt that is safe for pets and will not harm their paws. He said using booties can help protect their feet from both the cold and road salt, and dog coats can also help combat the cold.

Leavitt said it's important to make sure your dogs have enough enrichment, with things like chew toys and food puzzles, when it's too cold to play outside.

"If they're very excited to be outside, they may not want to come in," said Leavitt. They don't necessarily know what's good for them, and so owners have to be vigilant and not wait until dogs may show up at the back door, or exhibit symptoms of being too cold."

Leavitt said if your pet is acting out of character, with symptoms like shivering, after spending time in the cold, the key is to warm them up slowly. Do not try and put them in a hot bath, and opt for a warm blanket instead. He said pets may also act sluggish or chew on their feet after too much exposure to the cold.

He said to call your vet right away if your dog stops responding normally to you, or if they develop wounds on their skin. Common areas for pets to develop frostbite include their ears, nose and feet.

Cats are also susceptible to hypothermia in extreme cold. He said you should either bring in outdoor pets if you can, otherwise, you should make sure they have a warm place to sleep, and provide access to unfrozen water.

According to Leavitt, outdoor or feral cats may try to crawl into the engine block of cars to keep warm, and that you can tap on the hood of your car to make sure there aren't any furry creatures sleeping underneath before starting your car.