CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- You might think that with their thick fur coats, cats, dogs and other domesticated animals can bear the winter weather better that most people. Not so, say animal experts.
"In these extreme temperatures, it is not enough for pets to be in an outside enclosure. Pets need to be inside a home or a heated garage," said Amy Keith, a veterinarian and owner of Valley West Veterinary Hospital.
Keith was happy to report Tuesday afternoon that her office had not treated any pets with cold-related injuries after dangerously cold air and wind chills swept into the area in the past week.
But she added that it is especially important for pet owners to keep on eye on the animal's water.
"You need to check it. It's something you need to monitor because water freezes. Nothing replaces the human touch," Keith said.
If you regularly feed wild birds, she suggested you continue to do so and put out extra birdseed. She also said it is important to put out water regularly because it freezes and birds need to have a water source.
"The birds benefit from human caring too. It could mean the difference between life and death for the birds," Keith said.
If your pet walks on sidewalks or driveways that are treated against ice, she said it is important to use pet-safe ice prevention materials. Keith also recommends booties that are sold at area pet stores because salt can get between your pet's toes and cause distress and injury.
Regarding sweaters, she said, "It's not a bad idea to put a sweater on your dog. They're cute." She cautioned, though, that garments could be dangerous on a cat who might climb trees or crawl into tight spaces.
Keith had similar advice for owners of large animals such as such as horses and cattle regarding the importance of shelter and drinking water.
Keith said the Valley West website, www.valleywestvets.com, and Facebook page have additional helpful information for pet owners, including these cold-weather tips from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals: