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More Cold Weather Tips: Keep Your Pet Safe from Electric Shock

January 13, 2009

On the news this morning, I saw that the forecast for this Thursday night is 10 degrees. That's right, TEN DEGREES!!! My first thought was, "We live in the south, it's not suppose to get that cold here!" My second thought was about an article on the ASPCA website that I read recently, offering advice to individuals who are still brave enough to take their dogs out for brisk walks during these frigid temperatures.

Often storms this time of year bring snow and ice, which can damage power lines. The danger of stray voltage on city streets can turn a simple stroll into a devastating event for your four-legged loved ones. Most common in northern climates and urban areas, stray voltage occurs when dormant utilities leak excess electricity. Combined with wet streets and salt-based ice melts, this current can shock, injure or even prove fatal for those in its path.

“Since salt used to treat icy streets is a great conductor of electricity,” says Dr. Louise Murray, ASPCA Director of Medicine and author of Vet Confidential, “the risk of shock from stray voltage is that much higher during the winter months.” The ASPCA offers the following tips to help you avoid potentially hazardous areas, and advice on what to do if your pet has suffered an electrical shock:

Keep your dog away from metal fixtures, such as lampposts, grates or manhole covers. While these spots may be your pet’s favorite place to relieve himself, they may also conduct hazardous electricity.

Your dog's snazzy, rubber rain boots may look good, but they won't protect your pooch from a strong current. Don’t depend on them to keep your pet safe. Some boots—those with metal studs, for example—may even make the situation worse.

Observe your dog’s behavior. Is he skittish, frightened, angry or upset for no apparent reason? These sudden behavioral changes could be an indication of electric shock.

If your dog is incapacitated due to shock, don’t try to touch or move him without protective gear. Your pooch may pass the current to you, rendering you both incapable of seeking help. Instead, call your local fire department immediately.

For more information about keeping your pet safe during the winter months, check out the Top Ten Cold Weather Tips entry in this blog.

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