As the temperature continues to drop and we’re hit with snow and ice, it’s important to take special care to protect your pets from winter dangers.
Let your older or injured dog stay inside. Older dogs and particularly dogs with arthritis should not be left outside under any conditions. Take your dog outside for toileting and if the yard has snow or ice, use a leash since he can easily slip and hurt himself.
Keep an eye out for signs of frostbite and injury. Frostbite causes serious damage to a dog’s extremities, such as his ears, paws and tail. Here is what you should do if you suspect your dog may be getting frostbitten: Take him into a warm place right away. Soak the affected area in lukewarm water for 20 minutes and contact your veterinarian immediately. If your dog plays on ice or hard, frozen dirt, his paws are susceptible to cuts as they slide across these rough surfaces. Watch for chewing at his paws during long walks or periods of play. Always wipe your dog’s feet after a walk in the snow to remove ice, snow melt and salt deposits from the road (salt irritates a dog’s paws and can be toxic if ingested). Be sure to clean any ice balls from between his paw pads.
Watch out for hypothermia. Look for signs that your dog may be getting overly cold when he is outdoors. If he begins to whine or you notice extreme shivering, lethargy, or low heart rate, immediately take him into a warm place, cover him with a light blanket and call your veterinarian.
Offer a protective shelter. If your dog stays outside in the winter; check that his kennel meets minimum safety criteria. Face the house away from the weather and put a flap on the door. Be sure the house is raised several inches off the frozen ground or concrete. Place straw or wood shavings on the floor and change the bedding daily to keep it dry. Don’t use blankets, which get wet from snow and will chill your dog. The kennel should be large enough for your dog to sit and stand, but small enough so his body heat will be retained.
Provide fresh water. If you have a water bowl outside, make sure it is a plastic to ensure your dog’s tongue does not get stuck to cold metal and change the water often to keep it from freezing.
Give your dog an appropriate amount of food. An active dog in winter will burn more calories in the cold and needs a little more food to compensate. If he is less active in winter, avoid allowing him to gain extra weight. Decrease his food, a little and be sure to take him out for walks and playtime.
Keep up with your dog’s training during winter months. Dogs that spend less time outside during the winter may become lethargic or, in some cases, hyperactive. The best way to keep your dog active or encourage him to spend excess energy is to make him think and to use his brain. Provide 10-15 minutes of training daily on basics such as door boundaries, coming when called, and controlled walking to energize the lethargic dog and tire out the hyperactive dog. You could also provide your dog with a toy such as a Kong™ or Buster Cube™ to keep him busy indoors.