The weather outside is frightful, reminding us that winter will soon be here, and we are beginning our seasonal rituals to prepare for cold weather. We bring out heavier clothing, weatherproof our homes, and spend less time outdoors, but sadly, many pet caregivers seem to forget that pets can’t put on a sweater, or add a warm, cozy blanket to their beds, and if you look around your neighborhood, you will see dogs living outdoors with inadequate care. Millions of dogs live outdoors…all day, every day. When it rains, they are out there. When it’s 99 degrees, they are out there, often without shade, and when the temp drops to 10 degrees with blowing snow and winds, they are still out there, shivering, whimpering, longing to be inside. Some people just assume that their animals can adapt to live outdoors regardless of the weather, and a concerned neighbor may be the only hope for these poor animals. Without being judgmental, you may be able to convince them that they are putting their pets in danger…they may agree to make some changes…or they may not. If the dog is in distress, and no one will do anything, please don’t ignore the situation. Get involved…offer to help…and set a positive example by protecting your own pet companions in cold weather.
- Take your dog for a winter check-up before winter really hits. Your vet can check to make sure he doesn’t have any medical problems that will make him more vulnerable to the cold.
- Keep your dog inside! If you have to take her out, stay outside with her. Remember if you are feeling any distress from the cold, so is she!
- It’s a good idea to have your furnace checked for carbon monoxide leaks before you turn it on, both for your own health and that of your pets. Carbon monoxide is invisible and odorless, but can cause problems ranging from fatigue and headaches to difficulty breathing. Space heaters, electric blankets, and other heating products that may cause house fires should be closely monitored.
- Some products made for winter can be very dangerous or even lethal to pets. Ice melts and salt, if ingested can cause serious gastrointestinal inflammation. The best way to prevent ingestion of salts and ice melts is to wash your pet’s feet after coming indoors from walks. Antifreeze poisoning is common in winter, and even a small amount of the traditional antifreeze is extremely toxic. We suggest that you use products containing less-dangerous propylene glycol instead of ethylene glycol.
- Never leave your dog alone in your car during the winter. Just as the sweltering heat of summer can kill car-bound dogs, frigid winter temperatures can freeze them to death. Never let your dog off leash on snow or ice, especially during a snowstorm—dogs can lose their scent and easily become lost.
- I don’t promote “dressing up” your dog, but some dogs would really benefit from a sweater with a high collar or a coat with coverage from the neck to the base of the tail, also covering the belly. Our favorites are Fido Fleece coats by Premier Pets because they are easy on, easy off, and cover the underside of the dog.
As the cold winds howl outside your door, and your thoughts turn to burrowing under a cozy blanket, remember that your dog needs creature comforts too. Make sure she has a warm place to sleep, off the floor and away from all drafts. A cozy dog bed with a warm blanket or pillow is perfect.
Winter is a beautiful time of year, and if you take a few precautions, you and your dog can have a fabulous time!
If winter comes, can Spring be far behind?—Percy Bysshe Shelley