Depending on where you live, winter can mean freezing cold, mild humid conditions or anything in between. Wherever you are, is your dog prepared for cold weather conditions?
By Laura Pakis, Certified Professional Dog Trainer and Blogger
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.
- looking anxious
- slower movements
- intensely looking for somewhere to hide away from the weather
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” command can save a dog’s life when confronted with a pool of antifreeze or an unknown object in the snow.
- Recall command (coming when called) can keep a dog from running onto a partially frozen body of water or away from another winter hazard.
- 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.
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. Consider using coolant and antifreeze products that contain propylene glycol rather than ethylene glycol.
Supervise your dog and keep their ID tags on them
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.
Here’s a chart to help you with preparing for winter Spike’s Dog Blog