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Editorial: Avoid theft, winter injuries to pets

Pets become members of families and, as such, they should be handled with care.

A new criminal trend called “pet flipping” is gaining in popularity. The scandal involves people stealing or finding someone else’s pet and then selling the pet.

According to the American Kennel Club, there was a 27.8 percent increase in the number of dog thefts between January and May of this year compared with last year. The chief medical officer of Blue Pearl Veterinary Partners recommends several steps family members can take to prevent being pet flipping victims, as follows:

—Talk with the family’s veterinarian about having the pet micro-chipped. Micro-chipping is a relatively inexpensive procedure that can easily reunite a lost pet with its family.

—See if the veterinarian recommends using advanced technology like a GPS tracking enabled collar.

—Never leave a pet unattended outside.

—Keep current photos of the pet.

—Utilize the local veterinary community and computer web sites like Craigslist to try to find stolen pets.

The medical officer further advises, “If you feel you may be the victim of pet flipping, don’t try to take action on your own. Call your local law enforcement authorities and work with them to help get your furry friend back.”

Although not a result of sinister intentions, yet a danger to pets is the winter weather affecting this climate. The Partners recommend taking these precautions to ensure pets don’t suffer from cold temperature-related injuries:

—Similar to when it’s hot outside, never leave a pet alone in a car during cold weather. In the winter, a vehicle holds in the cold like a refrigerator and a pet could potentially freeze to death.

—Any dog or cat exposed to very cold temperatures for more than brief periods of time can develop frostbite. If pets begin to shiver or their ears, tail and feet show signs of frostbite such as redness in the early stages and pale, white or patches in more advanced cases of frostbite, bring them inside immediately.

—Antifreeze is highly toxic to people and animals. Cats and dogs are attracted to its sweet smell and taste, and will often sample some if left out in a container or spilled on a garage floor. If suspecting a pet has come in contact with antifreeze, contact a veterinarian immediately. The success of treatment to antifreeze exposure depends on quick action.

—Much like humans, damp and cold weather can aggravate symptoms associated with arthritis in dogs and cats. If a pet is having trouble getting up or laying down, walking the stairs, or has started to cry when being picked up, a visit to the veterinarian is in order. Never medicate a dog or cat with human prescriptions or over-the-counter medications without consulting a veterinarian first. Most of them are toxic for pets; numerous arthritis treatments are available for them. Also, dogs and cats deserve comfortable beds. Several pet and feed stores carry safe heated floor mats or non-electric warm bedding.

—Pets need to have fresh water at all times. If leaving water outside for pets, be sure it doesn’t freeze.

—Outdoors on cold days, animals may seek shelter near something warm like a car engine. If an animal is near the engine when the car is started, serious injury can occur.

—Starting a car to warm it up in a garage will trap carbon monoxide. It can only take a few minutes for a small pet to die in a sealed garage with a car running.

—During winter months, rodents are often attracted to the warmth of homes. Make sure poisons and rodenticides are out of reach of pets.

An internal medicine specialist with the Partners cautions, “Weather related injuries are among the easiest to prevent. By following these tips, people can help ensure their furry friends will remain a little safer this winter.”