Save your pets from coming arctic air

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 17, 2004

While the temperatures have dropped in the last several days, Old Man Winter officially moves in on Dec. 22, and he is coming in on an arctic blast.

As WSFA’s Chief Meteorologist Rich Thomas told his viewers Friday to enjoy the brief warm up.

&uot;More arctic air is right around the corner,&uot; he said. &uot;A cold front will quickly move through the state during the day Sunday, bringing in some VERY chilly air on strong, gusty north winds. Wind chills could reach the single digits by Sunday night and Monday morning.&uot;

So in the next few days, it is important to prepare your home, car and pets for the bitter cold.

If the chilly weather is hard on you, think about your four-legged pals this winter, too.

Below-freezing temperatures and low wind chills are tough on both pets and livestock. With low temperatures in the teens predicted for the first of next week, special attention needs to be given to the furry members of your family, says Arnold Boggan, animal control officer for the Greenville Animal Shelter.

&uot;You need to make sure your outdoor pets have a warm place to sleep – people do not think animals can freeze to death, but they certainly can,&uot; Boggan stresses. Even long-haired pets such as Siberian Huskies, German Shepherds and Golden Retrievers are at risk in extreme cold, experts say.

If bringing an outside pet inside the house is not an option for you, try to find a warm place in a garage or barn, or use a well-built doghouse or toolshed.

If a dog is kept outside, make sure it has a clean, dry shelter that is well insulated with straw, wood shavings or old blankets.

&uot;You also want to make sure it is protected from the wind, because those cold winds can really do harm,&uot; says Boggan.

Extra food is also important during frigid temps, Boggan says.

Outdoor pets have special nutritional needs, requiring more calories in the winter, so add 10% to 15% more to your outdoor pets’ daily diet in cold weather.

Not only will you want to give plenty of food to your pets, make sure they have plenty of fresh water, says Boggan.

&uot;Sometimes the ice gets so thick on top, the dog may not be able to lick his way through it to the water, so you need to check it regularly and break up the ice if need be,&uot; he adds.

Heated water bowls, which keep the water from freezing, are also available at larger pet stores.

As for our feline friends, outdoor cats will often seek the shelter of a car engine for warmth – a habit that can lead to a nasty surprise for both pet and owner. It’s suggested you be sure and rap on the hood a few times to chase any hidden pets away before cranking the vehicle. Again, a warm sheltered place to sleep, extra food and plenty of fresh water are important for outdoor cats, too.

Pets aren’t the only ones who need looking after when the temps take a tumble –

prepare your vehicles, too.

A breakdown on the road is never a pleasant experience. But a stalled vehicle in frigid weather can be more than inconvenient; it can be potentially dangerous.

To avoid such a mishap, take preventative measures to keep your truck, car or van running smoothly no matter what the weather.

A general tune-up is an excellent idea, says Bubba Mims, service manager for Greenville Motor Co.

&uot;Any driveability problems like hard starts, rough idling or stalling should be corrected because cold weather is just going to make those problems worse,&uot; Mims says.

It is also very important to check out the vehicle’s coolant levels, says Mims. &uot;They need to be good to a level of 20 below zero.&uot;

Keeping the vehicle’s charging system up to par is also essential, he says.

&uot;You’ll want to make sure your heater and defroster are working well, too – and it’s a good idea to change out old wiper blades.&uot;

Since a lot is riding on your tires – the safety of your loved ones – it’s equally important to have those tires checked out.

&uot;Look for tread life, uneven wear and rotate or replace the tires as needed. You’ll also want to make sure they are properly inflated. And have a good spare tire and a jack on hand,&uot; says Mims.

In case you do end up breaking down, keep the following items on hand: a blanket, gloves, flares, a flashlight and a (fully charged) cell phone. You should also keep a few &uot;high energy&uot; snacks in the glove box.

Your biggest investment, your home, could also stand a few things in getting ready for bitter cold weather.

It is very important to make sure all sources of heat have been properly inspected before winter strikes. Have a qualified heating technician service your furnace to ensure that it will operate safely and efficiently. It is also important to make sure that the area around your furnace is clear for good air circulation. All flammable materials, such as clothing, cardboard boxes, paint thinners, fuels, and

solvents, should be kept far away from the furnace.

Inspect your chimney to make sure it is unobstructed.

Because many furnaces vent into the chimney, it must be free of debris to allow products of combustion to vent to the outside atmosphere. If you will be burning wood in a fireplace, have the chimney and flue inspected to make sure they are in good condition and free of creosote buildup.

As the cold weather approaches, your furnace will consistently be running and your windows will be closed, so you may want to install a carbon monoxide detector. These devices will alert homeowners to any build-up of carbon monoxide in the home, which include such physical symptoms as headache, fatigue, dizziness, and shortness of

breath. If you experience any of these symptoms, get fresh air right away and contact a doctor for proper diagnosis.

Install smoke alarms near bedrooms and on each floor of your home. Test it monthly, and change any batteries at least once a year.

Add extra insulation to attics, basements and crawl spaces.

The temperature in the home should be at least 65 degrees. The temperature inside the walls where the pipes are located is substantially colder than the walls themselves. A temperature lower than 65 degrees will not keep the pipes from freezing.

Learn how to shut the water off and know where your pipes are located. If your pipes do freeze, time is of the essence. The quicker you can shut off the water or direct your plumber to the problem, the better chance you have to prevent the pipes from bursting.

Wrap pipes with heating tape and insulate unfinished rooms such as garages that frequently have exposed pipes. Also, check for cracks and leaks. Have them repaired immediately to prevent much costlier repairs.

To prevent air from flowing through, apply weather stripping around windows and door jambs. Remove and store screens.

Caulk cracks and gaps around windows and doors. Also be sure to replace broken window panes.

Managing Editor Jay Thomas contributed to this report.