Experts say to check on senior neighbors, pets as winter weather approaches

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – Our first brush of winter this week serves as a reminder that colder nights are on the horizon. Experts say it stresses the importance of checking on the most vulnerable in our community so everyone stays safe.

Protecting our seniors

Being outside or even in a very cold house can lead to hypothermia or other sicknesses.

“It’s important that neighbors check on their senior neighbors, make sure that their house is properly heated,” said Angela Grant, Aging Services Manager for the CAC’s Office on Aging.

Grant says listen to your neighbor and pay attention to their needs.

“You want to make sure that you have enough water and dry goods in the house. You want to make sure that you have plenty of warm blankets, warm clothing in case the heat does go out. If you have a heater, space heater, make sure you’re practicing space heater safety,” she said.

Related: As temps drop, heating bills rise – but help is available for families in need

Another option for seniors is spending the day at one of our senior centers to warm up.

“Extremes are always dangerous to those who are most vulnerable,” added Grant.

If you’re worried about your neighbor, you can call your local law enforcement agency to do a welfare check on them.

You can also call 211 to help find them the appropriate resources for their needs. For more information on cold weather safety and seniors, click here.

Protecting our pets

At UT Veterinary Medical Center, vets say if it’s cold, you need to bring your pets indoors.

More: Tips for pet winter safety

“It’s a common misconception that pets can stay outside just because they have fur,” said Leslie Wereszczak, Supervisor for Emergency and Critical Care at UT Veterinary Medical Center.

Wereszczak says if you’re too cold to be outside, your pet is too, “Hypothermia, just like with people, is a risk.”

If your pet must stay outside, vets say they need a dry, draft-free shelter with blankets, cedar shavings or straw covering the floor. The shelter must face away from the wind and have a doorway covering, either waterproof burlap or heavy plastic.

“You have to make sure that you check their water source, make sure that it isn’t frozen,” said Wereszczak.

Vets say be careful when walking your pet this winter because there may be salt or another chemical on the sidewalk to melt the ice.

“If your animal has been walking on those elements, then you should wash their feet, wipe them off,” added Wereszczak.

Heating assistance

The Knoxville-Knox County Community Action Committee assists families in need through LIHEAP or low income home energy assistance program.

To apply for LIHEAP assistance, you can schedule an appointment by calling (865) 637-6700.

If you live outside of Knox County, contact East Tennessee Human Resource Agency for energy assistance by clicking here or calling (865) 691-2551.

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