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Bitter cold blast descends on DC area, affects people, pipes and pets

Bitter cold blast descends on DC area, affects people, pipes and pets (ABC7)

A chilly blast of arctic air is descending on the DC metro area; by Wednesday, wind chill temperatures are expected to be in the single digits.

That means anyone working outside, whether laying down concrete, fixing a power pole, or repairing a water heater, will be feeling "the big chill."

"It can get very busy," says Brian Safrit, who works for a Maryland same-day plumbing service. "When the cold weather hits, a lot of people are victims of pipes freezing and rupturing, and doing damage."

You might call the next few days, "the mean season" for people, pipes, and pets.

"Older animals are not going to fare as well as younger animals," says Solomon Perl, who has a door-to-door veterinary business. "Healthier animals will fare better. Older arthritic animals will be achier."

On Tuesday afternoon, Perl was doing exams and updating vaccinations on Judy Berman's three dogs at her Potomac home.

What does he suggest about taking care of our four-legged friends during the cold front?

"I would recommend no longer than a half-hour leaving them outside," Perl says. "Basically a good rule of thumb is, if you can stand it, they can stand it."

He says dog owners need to remember that in extreme conditions, filled water bowls left outside, can easily freeze.

But here's a safety tip maybe you haven't heard about: keeping your pooch away from the effects of antifreeze and de-icer chemicals.

"People are going to be topping off their car radiators, spilling antifreeze," Perl remarks thoughtfully. "Antifreeze is very sweet, very palatable... and very toxic, wipes out the kidneys of pets."

He also says owners would be well advised to buy "pet booties" or use vaseline on their pet's paws to reduce irritation from driveway de-icer.

Berman says she learned a tough lesson about cold and pets after a scare two years ago.

"Theo was left out overnight, so it was really scary from our point of view because it had snowed," she recalls.

A family member thought her cockapoo Theo was safely in his crate for the night.

Instead, he was still outside- and stayed there, all night long.

Her stepson found the shivering pooch, suffering from hypothermia, and jumped into action.

"(He) was awesome. He bundled him up and called the vet immediately," she remembers. "Put him near heaters, and did everything he was supposed to do. It was very scary, 'cos I'm sure the dog was suffering."

Several miles away, plumber Brian Safrit was doing maintenance work on a water heater.

For him, this cold snap is the start of the busy season, when pipes freeze and then rupture.

Safrit says simple suggestions, like leaving a faucet dripping overnight, or opening up cabinets to expose pipes to warm air, will make a difference.

He also suggests shutting off your main water valve, and leaving a faucet open if you are leaving home for an extended period during the winter months.

"When water sits still, water freezes," he says. "As long as water is moving, then you don't have to worry as much."

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