“And all at once, summer collapsed into fall.” This quote by Oscar Wilde has certainly proven true out here on the Iowa prairie, and we are all suddenly thinking about winterizing our homes and cars, and making cold-weather-plans for our four-footed friends. It may be true that some breeds tolerate the cold better than others, but few dogs do well left outside for extended periods of time in cold, damp weather.
We discourage caregivers from keeping dogs outside all of the time in any weather, but the risk is certainly worse when the temperatures drop below the freezing mark. And remember that temperature is not the only factor to consider; wind chill makes conditions even more dangerous for animals.
If, for some reason, you do not want your dog in the main part of your home, surely there is a heated porch, an entryway, or even a corner in the garage that could be made into a cozy spot for her. If you accepted the responsibility of caring for an animal, you must also recognize the importance of finding a warm, comfortable place for her to stay. If she has behavioral issues, the solution is not to banish her to the back yard, but to spend the necessary time to train her. Dogs are smart and eager to comply to human rules, but they must be taught what the rules are.
Perhaps one of the most important considerations to prepare your pet for winter is nutrition. A high quality nutritionally balanced diet is essential. To find out how different foods rate, you can go to www.dogfoodadvisor.com which rates all of the major dog foods. Check out the food you are currently using—you may be surprised at what you find. All dog foods are not created equal and with all the clever marketing techniques used, it is difficult to sort out what is good and what is simply advertising hype.
Every year dogs die from ingesting traditional ethylene glycol-based antifreeze. It smells and tastes good to them, but it is very toxic. Never keep antifreeze where curious dogs (or children) can reach it, and remember that antifreeze sometimes collects on driveways and roadways. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, at least 10,000 dogs drink antifreeze every year because of the pleasant sweet taste. It takes only a small amount of traditional antifreeze to cause serious problems to the dog’s kidneys, and most dogs who drink it will die.
With winter just around the corner, don’t think that the fleas have all gone south. Most of us don’t associate fleas with dropping temperatures, but the fact is that fleas are more prevalent now than at any other time of the year. Throughout the summer, flea populations have increased and are peaking in the fall. They are also seeking out warm bodies and other warm places to feed and exist, so it is important to continue using flea preventatives well into the winter. A little extra prevention is better than having to deal with a flea infestation.
The use of rodenticides increases in the fall as rodents seek shelter from the cooler outdoor temperatures by attempting to move indoors. Rodenticides are highly toxic to pets, so if you use these products, be careful to put them in places inaccessible to your pets.
Don’t use cooler weather as an excuse to skip walking the dog…an exercise-deprived can get a serious case of cabin fever, which often leads to frustration-induced behaviors such as destructiveness and hyperactivity.
We are surrounded by potential dangers for our four-footed friends, but with a few extra precautions, you can keep your pet safe and healthy during these crisp, cool autumn months.