AUGUSTA — As the temperatures continue to stay very low, the staff of the Kennebec Valley Humane Society encourages community members to take precautionary steps to keep their pets safe from severe winter weather, according to a KVHS news release.

“The most important advice we can give to pet owners it to keep their cats inside and let their dogs out only for short times with supervision,” said Hillary Roberts, KVHS executive director, in the release. “This will help to keep your pets protected from not only the frigid temperatures, but also keep them safe from being lost, stolen, or any other unsafe situation that would only be made worse by the cold.”

Roberts said that by following these simple tips, courtesy of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, pet owners can help to ensure the safety and comfort of their animals:

• Keep the cat inside. Outdoors, felines can freeze, become lost or be stolen, injured or killed. Cats who are allowed to stray are exposed to infectious diseases, including rabies, from other cats, dogs and wildlife. If your cat is an indoor/outdoor cat, be aware of how long the cat stays out doors so as not to be subjected to long periods of time in the cold.

• During the winter, outdoor cats sometimes sleep under the hoods of cars. When the motor is started, the cat can be injured or killed by the fan belt. If there are outdoor cats in your area, bang loudly on the car hood before starting the engine to give the cat a chance to escape.

• Never let your dog off the leash on snow or ice, especially during a snowstorm — dogs can lose their scent and easily become lost. More dogs are lost during the winter than during any other season, so make sure yours always wears ID tags.

• Thoroughly wipe off your dog’s legs and stomach when he comes in out of the sleet, snow or ice. He can ingest salt, antifreeze or other potentially dangerous chemicals while licking his paws, and his paw pads may also bleed from snow or encrusted ice.

• Never shave your dog down to the skin in winter, as a longer coat will provide more warmth. When you bathe your dog in the colder months, be sure to completely dry him before taking him out for a walk. Own a short-haired breed? Consider getting him a coat or sweater with a high collar or turtleneck with coverage from the base of the tail to the belly. For many dogs, this is regulation winter wear.

• Never leave your dog or cat alone in a car during cold weather. A car can act as a refrigerator in the winter, holding in the cold and causing the animal to freeze to death.

• Puppies do not tolerate the cold as well as adult dogs, and may be difficult to housebreak during the winter. If your puppy appears to be sensitive to the weather, you may opt to paper-train him inside. If your dog is sensitive to the cold because of age, illness or breed type, take him outdoors only to relieve himself.

• Does your dog spend a lot of time engaged in outdoor activities? Increase his supply of food, particularly protein, to keep him — and his fur — in tip-top shape.

• Like coolant, antifreeze is a lethal poison for dogs and cats. Be sure to thoroughly clean up any spills from your vehicle, and consider using products that contain propylene glycol rather than ethylene glycol.

• Make sure your companion animal has a warm place to sleep, off the floor and away from all drafts. A cozy dog or cat bed with a warm blanket or pillow is perfect.

For more information, call Kennebec Valley Humane Society at 626-3491 or visit www.pethavenlane.org.

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