(winter weather safety tips from Smartypaws)
There are many simple things we can do to keep them warm and safe during these frigid weather conditions when the temperature is below 45 degrees F.
Keep in mind, wind chill can drop the temperature much lower than the thermometer indicates. Some dogs have thick undercoats to help keep them warm, but all dogs are susceptible to frost bite and hypothermia. Short-haired dogs are usually affected by cold and wind chill more quickly than long-haired breeds. Short-haired pups should wear a dry sweater or jacket outdoors in the cold fall and winter months. Wet sweaters and coats can actually make your dog colder. Doggie boots (like Muttluks) can also help protect your dog’s paws from frostbite and harmful ice melting chemicals. Different dogs have varying tolerances for the cold, and it’s important to remember that no pup should be left outside for long periods of time in below-freezing weather.
Take a look at your dog’s paws frequently for signs of cold weather injury or damage. Sudden lameness can occur due to injury or ice accumulation between the toes. Sometimes, clipping the hair between your dog’s toes can help reduce the chance of ice ball accumulation and discomfort.
During walks, your dog’s feet, legs and belly may pick up deicers, antifreeze, or other chemicals that could be toxic. When you get back inside, wipe down or wash your pet’s feet, legs and belly to remove these chemicals and reduce the risk of poisoning in case your dog licks them off their feet or fur. Look into using pet safe deicers on your own property to protect your pet and others around you.
Of course, I don’t recommend keeping any pet outside for long periods of time, but If your pooch has to be outside during the winter then make sure they have a solid, cozy house with warm bedding to protect from the wind and elements. They should also have unlimited access to fresh, non-frozen water (by changing water frequently or using a heated bowl).
If you like to bring your furry companion along with you running errands, be aware that cold cars also pose a significant risk to your pup’s health. In cold weather, a car can rapidly cool down and become like a refrigerator that can rapidly chill your pet. Pets that are young, old, ill, or thin are particularly susceptible to cold environments and should not be left in cold cars. It’s never a good idea to leave a pet unattended in a vehicle.
You should be able to recognize problems that may be signs of your pup experiencing hypothermia. If you’re outside and your dog exhibits any of these signs: whining, shivering, seeming anxious, slowing down or stops moving, seems week or starts looking for warm places to burrow, then get them back inside quickly. Frostbite is harder to detect, and may not be fully recognizable until a few days after the damage is done. If you suspect your pet has hypothermia or frostbite, consult your veterinarian immediately.
Finally, a dog who has been well trained in basic obedience cues can allow you and your pet to enjoy some winter weather activities together safely. Everything from having your pup comfortable with their feet being wiped and handled, to proper loose leash walking skills, will help make this winter’s outdoor adventures safe and fun. Please contact Smartypaws or check out our website for information on learning any of those basic (or advanced) obedience skills for dogs.