A Cook County official delivered this warning to Evanston pet owners: “Prolonged exposure to cold, snow, and ice can be as dangerous for dogs and cats as it is for humans.”

The warning came from Dr. Donna Alexander, administrator of the Cook County Department of Animal and Rabies Control.

“Given that this is only January, and we are likely to have several weeks of severe weather ahead of us,” Alexander said, “it is important for pet owners to remember that they should adjust their pets’ normal routine.”

So here is what she recommends:

Bring your pets indoors during sub-zero weather. “Despite  their abundance of hair, all domesticated dogs and cats are subject to frostbite and hypothermia,” she said.

Beware of salt and ice, which can irritate your dog’s footpads. If Fido won’t tolerate foot coverings, than wash the paws with warm water when you return home.

Reduce susceptibility to frostbite by limiting your pets’ time outdoors for waste elimination only. Ten minutes should be max. Check their pads when you get home and wash them with warm (not hot) towels. Contact your vet if you suspect frostbite on any extremity, including the nose and tips of ears.

Make sure they don’t come into contact with antifreeze, which is “extremely toxic to all living creatures.”

Beware of feral cats and wild animals, which may climb atop your car’s warm engine to seek warmth. “Honk your horn before you start your car,” Alexander suggests, “to give a wake-up call to any critters before you turn on the ignition.”

And if your pet is on prescriptions, make sure you have an ample supply in case of closures due to weather and know how to contact your veterinarian if necessary when his or her clinic is closed.

Charles Bartling

A resident of Evanston since 1975, Chuck Bartling holds a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University and has extensive experience as a reporter and editor for daily newspapers, radio...

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