If you are cold, your pet is cold. It’s that simple. Yes, dogs have a fur coat and it’s true that many of the northern dog breeds seem to thrive in cold weather. However, if you’re sharing your life with any breed other than something like an Alaskan Malamute, an American Eskimo Dog, a Bernese Mountain Dog, a Greater Swiss Mountain Dog, a Newfoundland, a Saint Bernard or similar, as a responsible pet owner it’s important to take extra precautions during the colder weather.
All dog breeds are vulnerable to hypothermia and frostbite. Never leave your pet outside in the cold without supervision. As a general rule, it’s best to stay indoors as much as possible during inclement weather. Here are a few additional reminders for protecting your dog during the cold winter months.
Prepare the House
Because you and your companion animal will likely spend more time indoors, prepare your house. Make sure to section off any areas you don’t want your pet to go, especially areas that lead outside. Dogs may get lost easier in the winter because the ice and snow can mask recognizable scents and landmarks, thereby making it harder for your pet to find his way home. Be sure there are no open doors or windows that can let the cold in or your dog out.
If you use space heaters, keep them away from locations where happy, wagging tails can knock them over and potentially start a fire. Moreover, if you build a fire in the fireplace, make sure your pet cannot get too close to the flame. In general, do your best to pet-proof your home.
It’s also important to offer a warm place to which your dog can retreat. A cozy dog bed that’s in a warm area, preferably up off of the floor and away from drafty windows and doors is the best scenario.
Be aware that cold weather can exacerbate certain physical limitations, especially in older and arthritic dogs. It’s a good idea to take shorter walks during the winter and try to stay away from frozen, icy patches. Some dogs may need a coat or sweater when outdoors in the winter, not to make a fashion statement but for warmth. Dogs with short hair will obviously get colder faster, but many of us don’t give the same consideration to dogs with short legs. Think about it; shorter legs mean his body is closer to the cold ground so he will get chilled more quickly.
Also remember that dogs with conditions like Cushing’s disease, heart or kidney disease, diabetes, or hormonal imbalances have a hard time regulating their body temperatures so they benefit from shorter, more frequent walks during the winter.
Give a Thorough Wipe-Down
After your walk, take the time to wipe off your dog’s paws, legs and belly when you first come inside. Many cities and counties use salt, deicers, antifreeze or some other types of toxic chemicals to help melt the snow and ice. These chemicals can irritate your pet’s feet. Furthermore, you don’t want your dog to lick his paws and ingest these substances. Likewise, it’s important to inspect your pet’s paw pads to make sure he didn’t cut himself on ice shards or broken glass.
Monitor Food and Water
Your dog should maintain a healthy weight throughout the winter. If he is less active than in the warmer months, you may have to adjust the amount of food he consumes. Make sure he has the proper amount of a nutritious, high quality dog food like CANIDAE, as well as plenty of fresh water during the winter months.
Sadly, not everyone is a responsible pet owner. If you happen to see a pet left outside during frigid weather, take action. Document the address, date, time, circumstances, type of animal and anything else you think is pertinent. If possible, take photographs or a video of the situation. Then call the authorities – a local animal control agency, the police or sheriff’s office, etc. – and report the situation.
On another day, go back to the location and see if that poor animal is still out in the cold. If so, respectfully call the agency back and make a second report. Please be the voice of those who cannot speak.
Have a happy and healthy winter!
Read more articles by Langley Cornwell