Don't forget to take extra precautions for pets in the cold winter weather

Monday, February 4, 2013
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Winter is in full swing, and the cold, wet weather is no fun for your pets, either. Chicago veterinarian Dr. Shelly Rubin is well acquainted with the dramatic temperature swings of the Midwest, and how to help pets and owners cope with them. Here is his list of wintertime do's and don'ts for pet owners:

* Don't fall off the exercise wagon. When the days are short and cold, it can be tempting to skip your early morning or evening walk. But with more than half of all pets in the U.S. being overweight or obese, exercise is vital. A daily walk, or several shorter walks, can rev the metabolism of both two- and four-legged walkers for hours.

* Do ensure your pet is outfitted for cooler weather. Small, light-bodied breeds, dogs with very short hair and older dogs with weakened immune systems are likely to need a sweater when venturing outside. Dogs may require protective footwear to keep their paw pads from freezing.

* Don't assume that cooler weather eliminates the threat of diseases like heartworm, which are spread by infected mosquitoes. Mosquitoes have been known to survive well into the winter months, thanks to indoor havens and protected microclimates existing within larger, cooler climate zones. For this reason, the American Heartworm Society recommends year-round heartworm protection for both dogs and cats.

* Do ensure your senior pet has a warm, draft-free place to sleep. Many older dogs and cats suffer from arthritis. Just as sore joints in people tend to feel worse in cold weather, so it is with pets. A warm cozy bed can make nights -- and mornings -- more comfortable.

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