Winterizing Your Dog

Keeping your pets safe from the elements of cold weather is extremely important to their health and overall well being. Follow these tips and you will have a happy pet during the periods of the year when we experience freezing temperatures.

  • Be aware of cold temperatures. Smaller dogs and older dogs should not be left outside when temperatures falls below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Put a sweater on your dogs before going outside, short-haired dogs can become immediately chilled after leaving the warmth of your home.
  • Keep older, arthritic dogs inside they should not be left outside. Take your older dogs outside to use the bathroom and use a leash when there is ice or snow to prevent accidents and injuries.
  • Check for signs of frostbite and injury. Dogs’ ears, tails and paws are extremely susceptible to frostbite. Frostbitten tissue may appear pale or gray in color, and the area will be cold and hard to the touch. As the frostbitten area thaws, it may become red. In severe cases of frostbite, within a few days the tissue will begin to turn black. If you suspect frostbite, immediately bring your dog to a warm location, soak the affected area in lukewarm water for approximately 20 minutes and call your veterinarian.
  • Watch out for Hypothermia. Shivering, lethargy, low heart rate and unresponsiveness are signs of hypothermia. Bring your dog to a warm area, cover him or her with a light blanket and call your veterinarian.
  • Beware of poisoning. Dogs like the sweet taste of antifreeze which can cause sickness and or death if ingested. Make sure that all antifreeze containers are out of reach of dogs and clean any spills immediately.
  • Have a protective shelter. If your dogs spend time outside make sure your doghouse is adequate to provide shelter from the harsh elements. Doghouses should be raised a couple inches off the frozen ground or concrete. Make sure to have a blanket, straw or cedar shavings inside to insulate, and an outside facing door. Your dogs home should be large enough so he or she can sit and stand, but small enough so their body heat will be retained in its home.
  • Have fresh water. Use a plastic water bowl to protect your dog’s tongue from getting stuck to cold metal. Remember to change the water often to keep it from freezing.
  • Adjust the amount of food provided for your dog with the weather. If your dog lives a very active lifestyle in the winter, he will burn more calories in the cold and needs about 10% more food to compensate for spent calories. If your dog is less active in the winter, reduce the amount of food provided to keep him from gaining extra winter weight.
  • Protect their paws. Winter can be extra brutal on your dog’s paw pads with exposure to the elements and toxic chemicals from the salt and antifreeze used during cold months. Over exposure to the elements and toxic chemicals puts your dogs paws pads at risk for drying, cracking, frostbite and chemical burns. Make sure to protect your pets with a protective balm or dog boots when facing the elements.


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