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Protect your pets in cold weather

Thursday - 1/24/2013, 6:02am  ET

pets_romeo.jpg
Romeo, a long-haired Chihuahua, braves a damp, cold Washington morning for a walk with his owner Chika in McLean Gardens Jan. 16, 2013. (WTOP/Kristi King)

Randi Martin, wtop.com

WASHINGTON - If it's too cold for you, then it's too cold for your dog.

Despite their fur coats and padded paws, dogs need protection from the elements just like their human companions do, says veterinarian Jenna Randall.

Randall, with the Washington Animal Rescue League, suggests using yourself as a barometer to decide how long is too long for your dog to stay outside.

Fur coats keep dogs warm, but in extreme cold, their natural coat is not enough.

"It's not OK for dogs to be outside for any prolonged period of time. Go outside to the bathroom and, if needed, do a short walk," says Randall.

Little dogs and dogs with short fur can benefit from that decorative coat you like to put on them. Also consider boots, as icy or snowy patches can be painful to your dog's feet.

If boots are not worn, wipe those cold feet off when you get inside to get rid of chemicals that might have been used to melt ice. Dogs could lick their feet and ingest those harmful ingredients, Randall says.

Frostbite should also be a concern for your dog.

"Your dog's ears and nose can get damaged from the cold," Randall says.

Don't forget to hydrate yourself and your dog after coming in from the cold. Although it may seem strange to give your dog a drink of cool water, it is necessary to keep him hydrated, she says.

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