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With below-zero temperatures, must take precautions with pets

Published: Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2014 5:30 a.m. CST • Updated: Thursday, Jan. 9, 2014 10:49 p.m. CST
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(Jessica Bourque – jbourque@shawmedia.com)
Bear, a three-year old Chow Chow dog from Morris, begins lifting her paws to show she is ready to go inside. It doesn't take long for paw pads to become cracked and blistered in sub-zero temperatures.
Caption
(Jessica Bourque – jbourque@shawmedia.com)
Bonnie Latta, owner of pet services business Bone-ifide Care, walks three-year-old Chow Chow dog, Bear, on Tuesday. Getting dogs outside in frigid temperatures can be difficult and dangerous for most pet owners.
Caption
(Jessica Bourque – jbourque@shawmedia.com)
Bud Fulton, handler at the Grundy County Animal Control facility, holds Echo, a stray pup at the facility. Animal control was busy taking in stranded and stray animals Tuesday because of the freezing temperatures.

MORRIS – Bear may have a long, thick coat of black fur, but the three-year-old Chow Chow dog can’t withstand more than two minutes in below-zero temperatures.

When Bear walks outside to use the bathroom Tuesday, it’s about 50 seconds before she’s whimpering and lifting her paws, showing she’s ready to come inside.

“See, when she starts lifting up her paws like that it means it’s time,” said Bonnie Latta, Bear’s walker and trainer. “They’re little pads get so cold. Even the larger dogs can’t take it for more than two minutes when it’s this cold.”

As of Tuesday, seven inches of snow still blanketed the ground in Morris according to a report from the Grundy County Emergency Management Agency, and temperatures hovered near zero degrees for most of the day.

The Chicago area felt negative temperatures for 37 consecutive hours marking the longest below-zero cold stretch since 1996, according to National Weather Service. This cold spell is the worst the area has seen in more than a decade.

The wave of extreme weather has proved dangerous for Grundy residents, but can be deadly for pets and stray animals if the proper precautions are not taken, according to animal experts.

“Just as with kids and ourselves, animals should keep it to minimal activity outside,” said Canaan Shores, veterinarian at Animal Care Hospital in Morris. “We have a lot dogs getting cabin fever, so to speak, because they have all of this pent up energy, but now is not the time to take them outside.”

As the owner of local pet service business Bone-ifide Care, Latta said she walks about 25 dogs a day, and with the extreme weather, she is taking extra precautions.

“I’ve been exercising them in the house for a good 15 minutes before I take them out,” Latta said. “That way, they’re a little more heated up and relaxed so I can take them outside for a quick minute,w and they potty right away.”

Shores said the Animal Care Hospital has treated a significant number of pets with blistered and cracked paw pads since the brutal cold descended upon the area.

Another common problem for pets is the ingestion of salt.

“It’s not uncommon for dogs to get salt or salty mixture on their feet, then they want to come inside and lick that off,” Shores said. “That’s irritating to them and can cause upset stomachs and even more severe problems if they get too much in their system.”

Shores strongly recommended buying booties or tying old socks around paws to provide protection from the cold and keep salt off pets’ paws.

“If you’re dog really doesn’t want to go out, you can also try putting some newspaper or piddle pads in your garage and see if your pet will go potty there, too,” Latta suggested.

If a pet does get too cold, it may begin to show symptoms of hypothermia or frostbite. Shores said frostbite is marked by red, blistered and irritated looking skin, and hypothermia by a general lack of responsiveness and energy in a pet.

To warm a pet up, Shores said to do so gradually, as warming them up too fast can be dangerous. He said to avoid using heating pads and instead suggested a towel warmed in the dryer.

Those with outdoor-only pets or who are unable to bring their pets inside, should make sure their animal has adequate shelter and lots of fresh water

“They should have a lot of straw and blankets in their kennel,” said June Krull, Director of Grundy County Animal Control. “They should also have water present at all times. You can buy those electric water heaters, which seem to work.”

Shore said water is especially important for outdoor animals because it’s a necessity often overlooked in the colder months.

Animal control has been especially busy taking in lost and stray animals that are seeking shelter in people’s garages and homes.

“Today we’ve taken in four already and the phone just keeps ringing,” Krull said Tuesday. “They’re all extremely cold, nervous and scared.”

Animal control also has received a few calls regarding neglect of horses, Krull said.

“The best thing to do is to just move your animals inside,” Krull said. “These temperatures are dangerous to people, so they are especially so for pets.”

Pet protection

• Keep pets inside as much as possible• Use booties to protect paws from blistering and salt ingestion• Make sure pets have plenty of water. For outdoor pets use a heated water dish• Use both straw and blankets to protect those pets who have to stay outside

Call or visit Grundy County Animal Control to report animal neglect or to drop off stray animals. It is located at 310 E. Dupont Rd in Morris, 815-942-9214.

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