You might be ready for the cold winter season, but is your pet? To assure that you and your four legged friend are ready for the chilly weather, acquaint yourself with the following 9 winter dangers and how to avoid them!
1) Proper Housing - During the winter, it can get very cold which can pose a severe problem for your pet. For most dogs that are left outside, even if protected by a doghouse, a severe wind chill can pose a threat to their health. Make sure your doghouse is well insulated. The door of the doghouse should be facing away from the wind to avoid any more exposure than necessary.
2) Proper Grooming - Dogs can develop dry skin due to the extremely dry winter weather. Dryness of the fur and skin can cause your dog to scratch and bite at their coat creating hot spots. (A “hot spot” is a skin lesion or scab caused by excessive biting or licking from your canine.) To avoid this, be sure to brush your dog regularly and possibly think about supplements or a shampoo to help with the dry skin.
3) Proper Feeding - If your dog spends a lot of time outdoors, consider giving him more food than normal to avoid malnourishment. More food will provide more protein to keep your dog’s fur in good shape. If you live in an area that freezes, be sure to monitor your dog’s water bowl, or consider getting a heated bowl to keep the water from freezing. This will help prevent your dog from becoming dehydrated.
4) Common Cold Weather Toxins - As with any season, you must be careful of antifreeze that can leak or spill from your car. If your dog consumes any antifreeze from a small leak in your drive way, this can kill your dog if not treated immediately. Dogs are very attracted to the taste of antifreeze, so be sure to keep it sealed up and out of harm’s way. You might consider using animal safe antifreeze which is free of ethylene glycol. Ethylene Glycol is the chemical that makes the antifreeze sweet (and appealing to your dog) as well as toxic.
5) Chilly Weather Chemicals - The chemicals and salts that melt the winter ice on the road and sidewalks can also be poisonous. When taking your dog on a walk, they can pick these substances up in their pads. If they do accumulate traces of these chemicals on their feet and then clean their paws when they return home, they will end up ingesting the chemicals which can cause their stomach to become upset (at the very least). To prevent this, be sure to rinse your pet’s paws with warm water when you return from a walk or event outside where they may have come in contact with these substances. Remember to let their paws dry before letting them back outside again!
6) Frosty Temperatures - Exposure to temperatures below zero, even short term, can cause frostbite of the feet, nose or ears. Indicators of frostbite may be red, gray or white colorization of the skin and possibly peeling skin. Be sure to remove ice and snow from paws and fur right away. Ice can form in the toe pads as well so make sure to thoroughly check your pooch’s paws. Also, think about clipping the fur between the pads to reduce the amount of snow that can collect there.
7) Proper Feeding Utensils - Metal bowls and buckets can cause a problem in freezing temperatures. If the bowls freeze your pet may get their tongue stuck to the metal, which will in turn cause them to get scared, try to pull away, and ultimately cause themselves injury. If it is below 32 degrees, be sure to use plastic or ceramic pet bowls.
8) Sensitive Dogs - Some dogs that do not have enough fur, or have low body fat, are not easily adaptable to cold weather. Older or sickly dogs can be extremely sensitive this time of year as well. If possible, keep them indoors in a warm environment, or in a warm shelter outside. Sweaters or jackets can give them an extra layer of protection as well.
9) Safety in Warmth - Every year numerous house fires start with space heaters being knocked over by pets (and sometimes humans!). Make sure that if you use a space heater to warm your home that you purchase one that will shut off automatically when tipped over. These are safer for you and your pet!
By educating yourself on these common dangers and knowing how to avoid them through preparation and proper dog training, you will be able to have a safe and comfortable winter season with your pets!