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Cold weather words of wisdom for pet owners

Blankets can keep pets warm, healthy in winter

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Posted: Thursday, December 8, 2011 12:00 am | Updated: 8:13 am, Thu Dec 8, 2011.

Snuggled under a pink and white polka-dot blanket, Toffee, Taffy, Ebony and Skittles nibbled and growled at each other, completely unaware of the cold front in Lodi that will persist in the coming weeks.

The four puppies were among just a handful of dogs and cats being cared for at the Animal Friends Connection on Cherokee Lane, with manager Patricia Sherman spearheading the effort to make sure each and every one will be kept warm and well-fed during the cold winter months.

Over the next couple of weeks, keeping pets out of the cold is just one thing pet owners need to do in order to keep their beloved bundles of fur healthy and safe during the holiday season, Sherman said.

"Inside is best, and even then it can still get cold, so blankets help, too," she said. "I drive to work in the mornings and I see these people who have covered their plants and I think, 'What about the animals?'"

With temperatures reaching freezing at night and hitting the low-50s during the day, according to the American Animal Hospital Association website, cold weather can be just as hard on pets as it can be on people.

In addition to having pet owners take their animals to the veterinary for a winter check-up, if dogs or cats are left out for an extended period of time, the association states that it is important to make sure to have a crate or dog house with blankets and non-frozen water readily available for a pet.

"Your pet's health will also affect how long he or she can stay out," the website states. "Conditions like diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease and hormonal imbalances can compromise a pet's ability to regulate his or her own body heat. Animals that are not generally in good health shouldn't be exposed to winter weather for a long period of time."

But what about those animals that are slightly more exotic or even those that are not necessarily pets?

Staying warm and staying healthy still carry the same weight for lemurs and lizards, said Micke Grove Zoo manager Ken Nieland.

Each den is heated for animals during the winter months, he said, particularly for reptiles like iguanas, which need completely climate-controlled environments because their bodies do not handle cool weather well.

Even animals from temperate climates like the San Joaquin Valley need a little extra heat when the frost settles on the roofs of their cages, Nieland added.

"We can walk out in the cold and grab our newspaper from the driveway before we run back inside because we can't necessarily handle the cold," he said. "It is the same for animals ... They can go out for a bit, but even (furry animals) need to go back inside eventually."

Contact reporter Katie Nelson at katien@lodinews.com.

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