Depending on where you live, winter can mean freezing cold, mild humid conditions or anything in between. Wherever you are, you need to be aware of how weather conditions affect a dog.
There is no hard and fast number which constitutes weather that is dangerous. A harsh winter wind with a freezing wind chill can be just as dangerous as a cold, drenching rain. To make matters more confusing, healthy dogs not accustom to frigid winter weather or warm sunny climates may be uncomfortable until they adapt. It’s important to know your own dog’s ability to tolerate weather changes rather than take chances.
As a general rule puppies, elderly, dogs with health conditions, short haired or short legged dogs are particularly sensitive to cold temperatures. Being outside too long can lead to an increased risk from hypothermia and even frostbite for them.
It is important to be aware of the signs that could indicate he is cold: whining, shivering, looking anxious, slower movements and intensely looking for somewhere to hide away from the weather. Also use common sense, if you’re not comfortable and have to bundle up, your dog could be at risk.
A veterinary visit might be in order if a dog hasn’t had a yearly checkup or if he’s not doing as well in the cold as he has in the past. Heart disease, kidney disease, and diabetes can interfere with a dog’s ability to maintain his body temperature.
As with any danger, being aware and taking precautions are your best bets. Here are a few tips:
Train your dog. Basic obedience training allows dog owners to enjoy winter weather conditions safely.
Loose leash walking will make slippery walks safer for both pet and owner.
“Leave it” commands can save a dog’s life when confronted with a pool of antifreeze or an unknown object in the snow.
Recall (coming when called) can keep a dog from running onto a partially frozen body of water or away from another winter hazard.
The stand command can help with wiping down a dog’s feet. Use this command while wiping off your dog’s legs and stomach when he comes in out of the rain, sleet or ice.
Protect your dog’s pads. There are several products on the market designed to protect dog paw pads during the winter from “pet safe” de-icing products to protective waxes and dog booties. In addition, dry winter air can contribute to drying and cracking pads. Consider using a humidifier in your house in addition to applying a product like Bag Balm to your dog’s pads.
Keep your dog’s nails trimmed and cut the long hair growing from between the pads of each foot. On dogs with long feathering on the back of their front legs, trim any excessive long hair so it doesn’t drag along the ground.
Don’t leave your dog in a car during cold weather. Extreme cold is just as dangerous for dogs in cars as extreme heat. The car can act as a refrigerator in the winter.
Consider using coolant and antifreeze products that contain propylene glycol rather than ethylene glycol.
Watch what your dog eats outside. Snow may cause stomach upset or there may be hidden objects in the snow. Dogs can ingest salt, antifreeze or other chemicals while licking their paws. Pads may bleed from encrusted snow or ice.
Supervise your dog and keep their ID tags on them when outside in the cold. Playing in the snow can be fun but with snow and ice on the ground dogs can lose their scent and become lost. Not surprising is that fact that more companion canines are lost during the winter than during any other season.
Familiarity with cold weather health hazards can keep your dog safe while allowing both of you to enjoy the outdoors. So bundle up, both of you, and prepare for a safe winter season.
Laura Pakis is an experienced certified professional trainer and owner/founder of Acme Canine. A veteran dog trainer, Laura feels responsible ownership is an important part of having a dog and guides her business toward providing dog owners with not only training knowledge but also care and understanding of dogs. Laura is a certified in Pet First Aid by the American Red Cross and PetSaver, is AKC Canine Good Citizen and Community Canine Evaluator, and AKC PuppySTAR evaluator. She is certified in breed selection, puppy development, assistance dog training, basic and advanced obedience, Police K-9 and protection training, tracking, E-touch training, and Pack to Basics.
Laura is well known throughout the canine community for quality training, high standards, and professionalism. Published author in several national and local magazines, invited speaker by the media and pet equipment companies for canine expertise, Laura assist dog trainers worldwide with improving their training techniques, people skills, and business knowledge. She has been nominated for the Woman of the Year in the Pet Industry Award, Better Business Bureau’s Integrity Award and Worthington Chamber’s Small Business Person of the Year Award. Recently her business was singled out from among several thousand businesses to be nominated as second finalists for the 2014 Pet Age boarding facility of the year; reflecting the skills, talents and professional reputation Laura has and continues to build in her growing business.
Laura Pakis, CPT, believes in giving back to the community. She has volunteered as a Service Dog trainer, taught puppy development through Franklin County’s prison program and Tricks for Treats at Bark Til Dark Dog Park, child/dog safety at Powell’s safety town, dog care workshops at her Lewis Center facility, local libraries and schools. In addition Laura and her dog, Woofie, have worked with children to improve their reading comprehension.
An animal lover at heart, Laura lives with Moneypenny (a Bluetick Coonhound), Spike (a rescued Dachshund/French Bulldog mix), and Autumn (a rescued Boxer/Labrador mix). Laura also has several laying hens who provide Laura and her clients with fresh eggs daily.