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How to keep your pets healthy and happy all winter long

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Updated: 1/25/2013 10:32 am

(BPT) - Dry skin, winter weight gain and the common cold - humans aren't the only ones to struggle with winter woes. Cold weather can affect our pets' health, too. While you can put in some extra time on the treadmill and layer up for the cold weather, pets rely on their human companions to help them stay healthy all year long.

As temperatures drop and snow starts to fall, keep these simple safety tips in mind to help keep your pets safe and healthy this winter:

Dress to impress ... and stay warm

With thick coats and hardy constitutions, some animal breeds are made to stand up to Old Man Winter. But most domestic dogs will feel the cold, so it makes sense to outfit them for the weather. Sweaters, booties and other winter essentials aren't just fashionable, they're functional; they can help protect your four-legged friends from extreme cold, snow and ice.

So, be sure to dress your pet appropriately for the weather, and while you're at it, you can also enter your pet into the 'Morton Best in Snow Pet Show' photo contest from Nov. 15 through Jan. 11, 2013. Entering is easy. Just submit a picture of your pet suited up for winter on the Morton Salt Facebook page at www.facebook.com/MortonSalt.

Keeping ID tags up-to-date and secure on your pet's collar is also a crucial part of any pet's winter wardrobe. Dogs especially can lose their way in snow-covered landscapes that mask familiar scents and scenery. It's best to keep your dog on a leash and ensure it is wearing an ID tag at all times to keep Fido safe and secure all season.

Avoid toxic temptations

Common products around your house can sometimes pose a threat to pets. For example, antifreeze can keep your vehicle running when temperatures drop, but it can stop your pet in its tracks if even a small amount is ingested. Be sure to keep all jugs of antifreeze, and other household chemicals, tightly sealed and stored on a high shelf away from pets. Clean up spills as soon as they happen to avoid accidental ingestion.

Always keep an eye on your pet's behavior. If you notice anything out of the ordinary, consult a veterinarian immediately.

Get safer sidewalks and happy paws

Ice and snow can make winter walks anything but wonderful. It's essential to keep sidewalks clear of ice and snow to prevent dangerous slip and fall accidents. While salted sidewalks and streets are important for winter safety, they can irritate pets' paws. Using a pet-friendly ice melter can clear the way but still be safer for our furry friends.

Most pet owners consider their pets as part of the family, and the majority (70 percent) think about their pets when they prepare for winter, according to a recent survey commissioned by Morton Salt. But only about one in four pet owners use a pet-friendly ice melter during the winter.

Choosing an ice melter that is both salt- and chloride-free, like Morton's Safe-T-Pet, is a great way to put your best paw forward. Developed in cooperation with, and recommended by veterinarians, Morton Safe-T-Pet clears snow and ice but is safer for pets' paws and tummies than traditional melting salt. Visit www.mortonsalt.com to find a retailer near you.

Take a bite out of winter weight

Like people, pets are less active in winter and burn fewer calories. Keep up a regular schedule of outdoor excursions - weather permitting and assuming your pet is properly dressed for the cold. In addition, consult your veterinarian about proper diet during 'hibernation' season and adjust your pet's diet accordingly to avoid winter weight gain.

Holiday treats help humans pack on the pounds, and can contribute to pets' winter weight gain too. But goodies like chocolate, macadamia nuts and alcohol can be even more harmful to pets. In large quantities, these treats can be very toxic for pets. Keep in mind common holiday decorations like mistletoe and poinsettias can also be dangerous if pets ingest them.

Winter can be a fun and festive time of year. While the elements may not always be on your side, with some precautions and preparations, your pets can weather the winter season - and be happy and healthy heading into spring.

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