Keep your pets safe from freezing temperatures

Jefferson City Police and local veterinarians are urging pet owners to keep their pets indoors during sub-zero temperatures.

Not too many people were out walking around Monday afternoon, but Joseph Hopkins had to step outside for a few moments to walk his dog Bailey.

"Typically, Bailey is a big baby, she hates the cold," Hopkins said. "We'll take quick walks, usually just five minutes at a time, then we go right back inside."

As with humans, if an animal is exposed to extreme cold for a moderate period of time, they can develop frostbite or even life-threatening injuries.

Veterinarian Steve Jacobek said fortunately, he has not seen any such cold-related injuries in animals he treats. However, he said it is important for pet owners to be aware that cold-related injuries can quickly become a medical emergency.

"Generally in this bitter cold, your average family dog should only be allowed out to use the bathroom. Generally I would say that's it," Jacobek said. "When we're sub-zero, I'd say they really should just be out there to do their business then come back inside."

During periods of snow and ice, Jacobek said it's also important to not leave your pet in a vehicle unattended, because the temperature inside the vehicle can quickly drop.

Some other tips to keep your pet safe during extreme cold include:

- Keep your cat inside. During periods of cold, cats can freeze or become lost.

- If you have cats that are known to sleep under the hood of your car, bang loudly on the hood before you start the car to get the cat out of your engine compartment.

- Never let your dog off the leash during snow or ice, especially during a snowstorm. During snow or extreme cold, dogs can lose their scent and become lost.

- After taking your dog outside, thoroughly wipe off the animal's paws and legs to minimize the health consquences of road chemical exposure.

- Never shave your dog down to the skin during winter; the animal's coat will provide more warmth and could prevent freezing.

- If you have puppies or kittens, keep them indoors.

- If you have a dog that is well-suited to the cold, make sure the animal has access to adequate, warm shelter as well as food and water.