Harsh winter weather brings a wide variety of concerns to responsible dog owners. Bitter cold, numbing wetness, biting winds and salt can cause much grief for that special dog in your life. To assure your canine companion stays healthy and safe through the long, winter months, follow these guidelines.
• Wind chill causes colder conditions than what is read on a thermometer. Dogs shouldn’t be left outside for long periods of time. Even a half hour in frigid temperatures can cause problems. Be sure to keep a sharp eye on your dog’s body temperature and never leave him in the yard for more than 10 minutes when temperatures dip below freezing.
• Always be sure your dog has adequate shelter where it will be warm and dry. Be sure that he isn’t lying in a drafty area. Place his bed, blanket or pillow on tile and wood floors to give him a warm place to sleep.
• Groom your canine companion on a regular basis. A coat that is well maintained is well insulated. Shorthaired dogs and those with coarse coats get cold easily. Consider purchasing a blanket, coat or sweater to keep your dog warm.
• Trim excess hair from footpads and toes of longhaired dogs. This makes it easier to remove ice and snow. Be careful not to injure your dog’s foot when trimming hair.
• If you own a working dog, or if your canine companion spends hours outdoors, feed it extra calories. In winter, dogs need extra energy to regulate body temperature. Extra food provides necessary nutrients to see your dog through the most frigid days.
• If your dog gets wet when out in inclement weather, towel or blow-dry his coat. Be sure to dry his paws well to prevent footpads from cracking. If your canine companion’s footpad becomes dry, moisten it with petroleum jelly.
• Use caution if you and your dog are walking, playing or working around frozen creeks, rivers, lakes or streams. If your dog jumps or slips into frigid water, his body temperature will drop quickly. Dogs can die from hypothermia, just as humans can.
• Never leave your dog alone in a vehicle. If the engine is off, he can die from hypothermia. If the engine is left running, he can be overcome with carbon monoxide fumes.
Winter Health Tips
• Always wash your dog’s paws after a winter walk to remove salt.
• Anti freeze that leaks onto driveways and roads smells and tastes good to dogs. However, it is highly poisonous and can be lethal to your canine companion if ingested.
• Your dog’s ears, feet and tail are highly susceptible to frostbite. Limit his time outdoors, if possible.
• Dogs can become dehydrated in winter. Make certain he always has plenty of fresh water available. Snow is not an efficient alternative to water.
• Like humans, dogs are more likely to experience health problems in winter. If your dog is listless, lethargic or experiences symptoms of illness, such as coughing, take him to the veterinarian as soon as possible.
• Woodstoves, fireplaces and portable heaters can cause severe burns to your canine companion. Be sure your dog stays away from all heat sources.
• Before giving your dog over-the-counter medications, be sure to consult your veterinarian. Like humans, there are some medications that shouldn’t be given because of health issues and/or allergies.
• Christmas plants such as holly and poinsettia are poisonous to dogs. Keep these plants well out of our dog’s reach.
• Do not introduce a new dog or puppy into your home during the holiday season. When a dog is adopted into a new environment, it needs lots of attention. Holidays do not permit the time to make a new dog or puppy feel secure. Remember, puppies aren’t toys. They are a lifetime commitment. If you wish, give an IOU or gift that represents the dog or puppy. This can be a collar, leash or food bowl.
• Don’t place lights on the lower branches of your Christmas tree. They can become hot and burn your dog.
• Puppies may chew on electrical cords. Be sure to place cords where your dog can’t get near them. Dogs can be electrocuted or shocked if they chew on electrical cords.
• If you purchase holiday gifts or treats for your dog, examine them thoroughly. Rawhide treats and small plastic balls or toys can be choking hazards.
• Avoid using glass ornaments. They will cut your dog’s mouth and paws if broken.
• Never leave your dog unattended if he can get to your Christmas tree. Sharp needles on both artificial and live trees cannot be digested and can cause a wide range of problems if swallowed.
• Your dog’s intestines can become blocked or circulation can be cut off if tinsel is swallowed. It’s best to avoid using tinsel when dogs are present in your home.
• Never use edible ornaments to decorate your tree. Dogs may knock the tree over in order to get to the treats.
• Keep all candy and treats out of your dog’s reach. Chocolate, alcohol and marshmallows are toxic for dogs.
• Keep to a normal schedule as much as possible during the holiday season. This will prevent your dog from becoming overly stressed. Dogs that are stressed often suffer from behavioral issues.
Follow the tips in this article to keep your dog healthy and safe this winter. Enjoy having fun with him in the snow and enjoy the holidays.