Ready, Set, Winter!
By Lynn Whittaker
Bow Wow U
Most of us know that leaving our beloved furry friend locked in the car during the summer months can prove to be deadly and we tend to think of the summer as being more dangerous for our pets. Unfortunately, the winter months can be equally as dangerous.
A simple walk in the winter snow can turn perilous. Dogs rely on their keen sense of smell, and if left to roam about outside they may easily lose their scent trail causing them to wander off in a direction that could get them lost. They may also increase their dangers near a water source. The water may be frozen enough to support snow, however too weak to support a dog who is preoccupied with running about and sniffing.
How your dog dresses when they go out is something else to consider. Dog coats are not just for fashion statements, they provide warmth and protection for your dog. There are specific dog breeds that are able to withstand cold temperatures, as they have double coats of fur that provide insulation. Smooth-coated breeds like Boxers, Greyhounds, Weimaraners, Daschunds, etc. are more susceptible to the elements as they lack the insulation of that additional fur.
While the body is protected the cold can rise through the feet and may cause hypothermia (when a dog’s body temperature drops to 96 degrees Fahrenheit or below) or even frostbite. Ears are also susceptible to frostbite as damage to the tiny capillaries in the ears can occur. If you suspect frostbite, contact your vet immediately.
It’s important to examine your dog’s feet when he or she comes inside. They can easily accumulate snow in between their pads. This can lead to frostbite and abrasions on their feet. Many people use salt and other chemicals during the winter to melt snow and ice, and these chemicals can do some serious damage to your dog’s feet.
If you live in an area where you must walk your dog on the sidewalk, purchasing dog booties or applying a protective balm to protect your dog’s feet is a good idea.
Washing your dog’s feet is another great tip when you come in from the cold. Not only do you rid your dog’s feet of those chemicals, but you can also prevent ingesting them. Be certain to dry the feet thoroughly to prevent any bacteria. Washing helps prevent those cracks and little cuts that can occur on your dog’s pads. You can also use balms to assist in keeping the pads soft, as they do have a tendency to become dry like our own skin in the winter months.
Here are some good tips to keep in mind as the winter weather approaches:
- If your hands and fingers are cold, your dog’s pads may be feeling the cold as well. Essentially, if it’s too cold for you, it’s too cold for your dog.
- If your dog spends a great deal of time outside, be sure to provide dry shelter, off the ground.
- Wash and protect your dog’s feet from the weather.
Even though we are still a bit away from winter setting in, it’s never too early to prepare and winterize your pets!