With the shortening of days and cooler temperatures, new hazards emerge for the dog owner to be aware of.
Dogs feel heat loss as much as we humans do. When outside during winter the wind-chill drops the temperature well below what the thermometer actually indicates the temperature is.
Be aware of this if your dog is outside for any reason during the winter. Wind-chill affects short haired dogs more swiftly than longhaired varieties.
If Going Outside Grab a Coat
If you own a shorthaired dog consider investing in a dog coat or jumper for the winter months. They give the dog extra insulation and keep your dog warmer and drier. A good dog coat should either have a sheepskin lining or be made of wool. It should extend from the base of the tail to the neck of the animal and preferably have a turtleneck for added insulation.
Frostbite is a risk during winter with the dog’s feet, tail, and ears being particularly vulnerable to attack from the cold. The best way to avoid these complications during winter is to restrict your pets’ time outside exposed to the cold.
Braving the Elements
If your dog does remain outside during the winter, ensure the animal has a doghouse that is elevated off the ground. Cover the floor of the doghouse with straw or old blankets. The doghouse should be small enough to retain the dog’s body heat but large enough to allow the animal to turn around and lie down comfortably. To help retain body heat the doorway of the doghouse should have a heavy burlap covering. Direct the doghouse away from the direction of your most adverse weather. For outdoor dogs do not use a metal feeding dish, if the temperature drops low enough your pets tongue may freeze to the bowl.
Something to Sink Your Teeth Into
During the cold months of winter, your dog will require more calories as the dog’s body burns up calories to keep its body temperature up against the cold. Feed your pet foods that are high in protein to help the animal keep warm. Provide plenty of fresh water during winter because as ironic as it may sound snow is not a suitable substitute for freshwater.
Cold is Not The Only Danger
Always dry your dogs’ paws, legs, and underbelly after walking in the snow. Ice encrustation in these areas can lead to painful splits and areas of bleeding. Another good reason to wipe these areas down is the fact that the chemical salts used to melt snow on footpaths can cause severe irritation to your dogs’ pads if your dog licks those areas. These salts can make your dog very ill.
The use of antifreeze during winter can pose a serious danger to your dog. It is fatally toxic but has a very sweet taste which dogs find highly appealing. A very small dose is enough to kill. Ensure that any spills of this chemical are cleaned up straight away and the area is flushed with water as soon as possible. If you suspect chemical salts or antifreeze has poisoned your dog take the dog immediately for veterinary treatment.
Old, Tired and Sore Bones
Old dogs become more lethargic during winter, it is best that they are only taken outside to relieve themselves, and then returned to the warmth inside. Puppies should only be taken outside to “take care of business”; because of their small body size, they lose heat more quickly than full-grown dogs.
Fires during winter pose a threat for your pet. Sparks can land on fur and cause nasty burns. Always ensure that you use a fire screen when pets are present.
Ensure your dog has a cosy, warm spot to sleep. Make sure the animal is out of any drafts and has a warm blanket to lie on. Heat pads are available from pet retailers and may be worth the outlay for the tired, sore bones of an older dog to make them more comfortable during the winter period.
Never leave dogs in a car by themselves if the weather is cold. Cars cool down very quickly in cold weather and if the temperature drops low enough they can become like refrigerators causing your pet to freeze to death.
Beware of Winter Chills
Respiratory infections and colds can manifest during cold weather. If your dog becomes ill, consult your local veterinarian as soon as possible. These infections can lead to the untimely death of your companion.
The Dull Days of Winter
Finally, boredom can be a problem during the winter months. Try to involve your dog in family activities so they don’t feel overlooked. There is nothing better than an indoor game of fetch for both your family and your dog on a dull winter’s day.