Our Dogs And The Winter
Does your dog absolutely adore the winter season or would he rather cuddle up with you on the couch? Either way, just as there are tips to keep your dog safe in the summer, there are also ways to keep your dog happy, healthy and safe throughout the winter months. Winter will be coming to an end soon but we still have some cold, snowy days left upon us.
There is often the misconception that every dog is built to tolerate cold winter temperatures. Your dog does have a coat of fur to assist him with keeping warm; however, many dogs are not able to tolerate the cold for significant amounts of time regardless of their breed. Let’s talk about several commonly seen health conditions caused from the cold temperatures.
First, let’s discuss frostbite. Frostbite begins when your dog’s body begins to pull blood from his extremities (ears, paws, tail) to the center of his body to remain warm. You may even notice your dog’s ears, paws and tail begin to form ice crystals which could severely damage your dog’s extremities for his or her lifetime. A critical fact to note with frostbite is … frostbite is not noticed immediately and symptoms may even take days to notice. The beginning effects of frostbite include pale or grey skin and/or pain when the area is touched. Once the frostbite worsens, the skin could potentially turn black in color, areas may become swollen and/or blister.
The second most common winter health concern is hypothermia. What is hypothermia? Well, this will occur if your dog spends too much time in cold temperatures. In the beginning stages of hypothermia, you will notice your dog shivering and their extremities will become cold. As the stages of hypothermia progress, the dog will appear to be depressed, lethargic and weak. Eventually, her heart rate will begin to decrease and her breathing will slow. Please note, severe hypothermia is a life threatening condition.
How cold is too cold? Well, this depends on a number of factors including your dog’s size, dog’s coat and your dog’s age. This also depends on the wind chill, the level of dampness and the cloud cover outside. Generally speaking though, the recommended temperature if your dog will be outside for an extended period of time is 45 degrees.
If your dog is: a senior-age dog, has a short coat, has health conditions or generally appears cold in the winter time, a sweater may be important during her walk time. If you are looking for a coat for your dog, the coat should reach from the neck to the back of her tail. Keep in mind the jacket does not often protect her extremities so even with a jacket, your dog should not be left out in the cold for extended periods of time.
Just like us, your dog may even get a bit chilly indoors. Sleeping on a cold floor could be uncomfortable for your dog. In homes which have wood floors, even though our homes are heated, these can become uncomfortably cold in the winter months. A dog bed may be extremely appreciated by your dog when placed away from drafts … be sure the dog bed is placed in an area that is familiar and away from a heater.
The winter may also dry your dog’s skin just as winter dries ours. To prevent dry skin, you can add a skin and coat supplement to your dog’s meal routine. Fish oils are generally recommended for this and may also be used all throughout the year to keep a healthy, shiny coat.
When walking your dog in the winter, there may also be salt on his paws. You will want to be sure to clean his paws following a walk if you walk in any areas which may be salted. The salt could potentially burn your dog’s paw pads and is a toxic material so you don’t want him licking it off himself. Dog booties (although they look a bit silly at times) actually provide significant protection to your dog’s paw pads if your dog will tolerate them.
Finally, we get to the topic of antifreeze. Antifreeze is abundant particularly in the winter. Antifreeze attracts your dog due to its sweet aroma and taste. Your dog will happily lick and/or drink any antifreeze he comes in contact with. Antifreeze is extremely toxic and even a minute amount can be fatal. If you suspect your dog has come in contact with antifreeze, you should visit a veterinarian immediately.
If you have any questions at all or would like additional winter tips, please feel free to contact me on my website, www.AmberLDrake.org.