One of the dreaded tasks of being a pet owner is having to leave a cozy, warm house to take the dog for a walk in Chicago's winter weather.
Chances are if the owner is cold outdoors, then so is the pet.
With subzero temperatures forecast for next week, we checked in with Dr. Stacia Volbrecht, emergency room director of the Chicago Veterinary Emergency and Specialty Center to find out how to care for pets during the frigid weather.
One of the most common cold-weather emergencies the center sees is irritated dog paw pads caused by the salt sprinkled on icy sidewalks.
Not all salt used by property owners is safe for pets, but there are ways to tell if the salt is bothering yours. If a dog holds up one foot, hops around on its paws, or switches feet while standing on the sidewalk, it could be dealing with irritation. When the dog comes inside from a walk, they may also lick their paws and the skin in between their paw pads may appear red.
It's not a bad idea to put booties on dogs when they go out and wipe off paws with a clean, wet cloth once they come back inside the home.While it's rare for animals to come in with frostbite, it is possible, she said.
During the winter, dogs should not be left alone outside. When the weather is below zero, owners should limit outdoor activity for pets to short leash walks to relieve themselves. Dogs can also go to doggy day care for indoor exercise.
When outdoors, young, sick, short haired dogs, and older pets should wear a sweater or coat to keep warm while thick, heavy fur breeds such as huskies and collies would be OK without them, she said.
The other main thing to watch out for is making sure pets don't have access to anti-freeze which is often left in the garage during the winter and is toxic to pets, she said.
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