Tips to protect Fido from the freeze

FRESNO, Calif.

In the Valley when the weather changes from warm to cold almost overnight, it's easy to overlook the impact the cool conditions can have on your dogs and cats.

Just like the summer months, veterinarians warn against leaving animals in the car because instead of an oven, the car can act as a refrigerator, locking in the cold and causing them to freeze to death.

"This is Tria and she's like seven. We rescued her off the street. She was all matted and looked like she was in bad condition," said Chris Moses.

Now that the dog days of summer are finally gone and overnight temperatures in Fresno are flirting with a freeze, pet parents like Moses are taking extra steps to protect their furry family members, sometimes dressing them to the "canines."

"When we come to the park, we put a little jacket on this one. At home the dogs come inside at night, there's a doggie door and ours are well-trained so even our cat they come in and out and most of the time they're inside," she said.

Moses said she planned ahead for the current cold snap, but Valley veterinarians say it's easy for pet owners to be taken off guard by the sudden change in temperatures.

Doctor Chris Dobbins at Fresno Pet ER told Action News, small dogs, old dogs and puppies, even those with short coats, should be kept inside when the temperature drops below 40 degrees.

"The easiest and cheapest way to care for your animals is to just bring them inside," said Dobbins. "But if they have to stay outside, get something between them and the ground. Padding, thick beds like this from Costco. Any of the pet stores have these things pretty inexpensive."

He said doghouses should also be waterproof, free from drafts and elevated few inches off the ground to ward off some of the cold.

"Obviously if it's facing the wind, it's going to blow right inside and it's just like a big fan blowing the cold air inside so turn it around, place it in the sun or near the house with enough room for them to get in and out," added Dobbins.

It's also a good idea to use a tip-resistant, ceramic or hard plastic water bowl rather than a metal one, when the temperature is low, to prevent your dog's tongue from sticking to the side.

If you put your dog or cat in the garage, he said, make sure it's pet safe. Chemicals like Antifreeze can have a sweet taste and is attractive to animals, but it's also extremely toxic and can even cause death.

If you head to the snow, Dobbins suggests putting insulated booties on your pet's feet to protect it from frostbite.

The Central California Animal Disaster team also advises owners to thoroughly wipe off their dogs paws, legs and stomachs when they come in out of the sleet, snow or ice. Dogs can ingest salt and other potentially dangerous chemicals and their paw pads may also bleed from snow or encrusted ice.

Pets lose most of their body heat from the pads of their feet, noses and ears. You can put them in a sweater when they are with you; however experts say the best way to guard your animal from the cold is by keeping a close eye on them.

Never let your dog off leash on snow or ice, especially during a snowstorm. Dogs can lose their scent and easily become lost.

CCAD says more dogs are lost during the winter than during any other season, so make sure yours always wears ID tags or is mircrochipped for another layer of protection.

Lastly, if you have outdoor cats in your neighborhood, before you start your engine, knock on the hood or honk the horn. Cats often seek refuge near a warm car engine or tire.

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