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With the temperatures dropping below freezing, it’s a good idea to keep pets in mind if they are outside in the frigid temperatures any period of time.

Desloge Animal Control Officer Marlon Shaw recommends that any dog outside for an extended period of time must be protected by a dry, draft-free shelter that is large enough to allow them to move around comfortably, but still small enough to hold in their body heat.

"When building an outdoor shelter for your pet, the floor should be raised a few inches from the ground and covered with straw, a blanket or cedar shavings to help keep them warm,” said Shaw. “Heavy plastic or waterproof burlap should be attached to the doorway to help keep the wind out.”

Shaw said recently he had been watching a dog after he received a call. He had to contact the owner to get the animal the correct care it needed.

“I noticed a couple days ago when the weather got really cold that dog didn’t have any of the things he needed to stay warm,” said Shaw. “It was sitting next to the air conditioning unit shaking so I was able to get ahold of the owner and told him to make the changes or I would have to charge him.”

Shaw said in a case like that he could seek charges of animal neglect if changes aren’t made or he could also go in and do a rescue for the animal.

“Another important thing is to have a collar and contact information on your pet in case they get lost,” said Shaw. “Facebook has been a great tool also, but having a name tag on your pets collar would get your animal back to you sooner.”

Shaw said pets who spend a lot of time outdoors need more food in the winter because keeping warm depletes their energy. He stressed that their water needs to be checked constantly because it can freeze.

“It’s also recommended to use plastic feeding dishes, because when it gets extremely cold their tongues can stick and freeze to the metal dishes,” Shaw said. “Also, exposed skin on noses, ears and paws are at risk for frostbite and hypothermia during extreme cold temperatures.”

Park Hills Police Sgt. Tony Remshardt said there are laws regulating animal neglect. It falls under the same ordinance of not providing animals with adequate housing, food and water.

“We do get calls regarding pets being left outdoors, but surprisingly we haven’t this go-round of cold weather,” said Remshardt. “It’s one of those things where we will go out and investigate if they have adequate housing to get out of the weather and their water is not frozen over, so they can get water when they need it.”

Remshardt said hydration is a key thing in staying warm and pets will eat more food than normal because they are burning so much energy trying to stay warm.

“If it’s going to be too hot or too cold, it’s always best to bring your pets in,” said Remshardt. “As long as they have shade for the heat, or shelter to get out of the wind as far as cold weather goes, they are pretty well in compliance.”

According to the Humane Society of Missouri, no one should leave their pet outside in the cold for a prolonged period of time. Limit time outdoors and be sure to check for frostbite on the ears, tail and paws. As for cats, they should always be left indoors.

There are dangers outside for pets besides the cold itself. Antifreeze and rock salt can pose as another hidden danger. Antifreeze smells good and tastes sweet to pets, but it is lethally dangerous to them. Contact an area veterinarian immediately if it’s believed they have ingested antifreeze.

Rock salt is a lot less dangerous, but it can irritate paws, so it’s a good idea to wash them off after exposure.

Renee Bronaugh is a reporter for the Daily Journal and can be reached at 573-518-3617 or rbronaugh@dailyjournalonline.com

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