Winter weather is upon us here in Colorado Springs. Most pet owners are aware of the dangers of hot weather for their dog, such as how dangerous it is to leave their dog in a car on a hot day. But many owners may not realize the hazard cold weather can pose to your dog’s health.
Here are 16 tips to help you keep your dog safe and comfortable during winter weather.
Get a well-dog check up with your vet
Cold weather can worsen chronic health conditions, such as arthritis. Your dog should be examined once a year by a veterinarian; now is a good time to get a preventative care exam to make sure your dog is as healthy as possible before the cold winter season.
Consider your dog’s tolerance for cold weather
The ability to tolerate cold weather can vary from dog to dog, depending on the thickness of their coat, body fat stores, activity level and overall health. Arthritic and elderly dogs may have more difficulty walking on snow and ice and may be prone to slipping and falling. Long-haired or thick-coated dogs tend to tolerate cold weather better than their short-haired counterparts. Short-legged dogs may become cold faster because their bellies and bodies are more likely to come into contact with the wet and cold. Be aware that dogs with chronic diseases (like heart disease or diabetes) have a harder time regulating their body temperature, making them more susceptible to problems from temperature extremes.
Give your dog a choice of where to rest and sleep
Just like humans, dogs prefer comfortable resting and sleeping places. Give your dog a choice of where to sleep to allow them the opportunity to find the best place for their needs.
Keep your dog inside
Dogs should be kept indoors during cold weather. There is a belief that dogs are more resistant to cold weather than people, but this is untrue. Like people, dogs are susceptible to frostbite and hypothermia and should be kept indoors. Longer-haired and thick-coated breeds (like Huskies) and other dogs that are bred for colder climates can tolerate the cold better than other breeds, but no dog should be left outdoors for long periods of time during sub-freezing weather.
Check your dog’s paws
Check your dog’s paws often for signs of cold-weather injury or damage. The pads of the paw can become cracked or bleeding due to ice accumulation. Keep the hair between the toes clipped to reduce the chance of ice accumulating between your dog’s toes.
Consider a sweater or coat
If your dog has a short coat or seems to have a hard time in the cold, consider putting a sweater or coat on them. If your dog seems to like wearing them, keep several on hand so you always have a dry garment to put on them. Wet sweaters or coats actually make your dog colder and can cause hypothermia faster. Some pet owners use booties to protect their dog’s paws. If you decide to use them, make sure they fit properly.
Wipe your dog off after being out in the snow or ice
Your dog’s feet, legs and belly can pick up de-icers, antifreeze or other chemicals that can be toxic. Take a few minutes when you get back from your walk with your dog to wipe your dog’s feet, legs and belly to remove any chemicals and reduce the chance he/she will get sick after licking their self off. Use pet-free de-icers on your property to protect your dog and other pets in the neighborhood.
Make sure your dog wears a collar with ID
Dogs can get lost in winter because snow and ice can hide recognizable scent they normally would use to find their way back home. Make sure your dog has a well-fitted collar with up-to-date identification as well as a microchip to increase the chance your dog will be found should he or she become lost.
Do not leave your dog unattended in the car
Cold cars pose a significant health risk to your dog. A car can rapidly cool down in cold weather, rapidly chilling your dog. Dogs that are old, thin or ill are particularly susceptible to the cold. Limit car travel to only that which is necessary and don’t leave your dog unattended in the car. Consider bringing your dog to Canine Campus during times when you need to be away instead of leaving your dog in the car.
Prevent antifreeze poisoning
Even small amounts of antifreeze can be deadly to your dog, so make sure you clean up any spills immediately.
Dog-proof your house
Make sure your house is properly dog-proofed during winter months when your dog may be spending more time indoors. Pay special attention to the use of space heaters, check to make sure your furnace is working properly and install carbon monoxide detectors on each floor of the house.
Avoid ice when walking your dog
Stay away from frozen ponds, lakes and other frozen water. If your dog falls through a weak spot in the ice it could be deadly. If this happens you could instinctively try to save your dog’s life, jeopardizing your life as well.
Provide adequate shelter
If your dog needs to be outside for a period of time (which is not recommended), make sure you provide adequate shelter. Provide a warm, solid structure that is turned away from prevailing winds. Your dog should always have access to fresh, non-frozen water. The floor should be off the ground and bedding should be thick, dry and changed often to make sure it is a warm, dry environment. Do not use space heaters or heat lamps because of the risk of burns or fire. Heated bed mats should be used with caution because they have been known to burn pets.
Pay attention to warning signs
Pay attention to signs your dog may be suffering from hypothermia. Some of the signs include:
- slowing down
- won’t move
- seems weak
- or starts looking for a warm place to burrow.
If you notice any of these signs, get them back inside quickly. Frostbite is harder to detect; it may not be recognizable until a few days after the damage is done. If you suspect your dog has hypothermia or frostbite, take them to the vet right away.
Include your dog in your emergency preparedness planning
Cold weather brings the risk of severe winter weather, blizzards, storms and power outages. Make sure you have enough food, water and medicine your dog may need during a disaster. In general, you should keep enough provisions on hand to get through at least 5 days.
Feed your dog well during the winter
Your dog may need extra calories during the cold months, especially if he/she spends time outside. However, do not let your dog gain extra weight because that can pose health risks as well. Talk to your vet to make sure you are meeting your dog’s nutritional needs during the cold weather.
Keep your dog healthy, happy and comfortable at Canine Campus. We will entertain your pooch and provide the best quality supervised care in a safe and snug environment all day long. Call us today at 719-448-9600 or contact us here to get your dog scheduled for boarding or drop in for daycare. We’d love to have you join the Canine Campus family!