Pet safety crucial in extreme winter cold

As central Iowa remains subsumed in a polar vortex, Heidi Drager of Marshalltown’s Animal Rescue League is urging pet owners to think of their animals.

“If we are suffering from minus 20 temperatures so are animals who are outside,” she said. “Yes, they have fur coats, but that is no substitute to being inside a warm home or other form of shelter during the extremely cold temperatures we’ve been experiencing.”

A whirlpool of frigid, dense air, combined with wind, was expected to make central Iowa temperatures drop to dangerous levels Monday evening and Tuesday, according to the Associated Press.

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals offers the following cold weather guidelines for pets at its website,

– Keep your 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.

– 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 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.

“Please protect your pets,” Drager said.

The ARL, 1921 Taylor Ave., is a not-for-profit organization that serves lost and homeless animals of Marshalltown and the surrounding area. For more information, contact 641-753-9046, or visit