Winter’s Icy Grip Affects Our Pets Too

We are definitely in winter’s frigid grip….with record breaking low temperatures, blizzards, and wild weather, meaning shoveling, snowblowing, dealing with bad roads, and sometimes unbearable cold. Eugene O’Neill describes the way most of us feel right now: “Blow, blow, thou winter wind, away, away from here…I do not love thy snow and sleet or icy flows. I am cold, no matter how I warm or clothe me.” Our companion animals do not appreciate this inclement weather either, and caregivers are responsible to keep them safe and healthy.

These below zero temps may be even worse than what the thermometer reads. The wind chill factor can drop the actual temperature by 20 or 30 degrees, so even if your dogs are used to being outside, they need to be brought inside in extreme cold snaps.

Nothing is more fun that cavorting in the snow with your dog, and regular exercise is important when you are both housebound much of the time, but take care to limit the time outdoors. Wipe snow and ice off your dog’s fee…even clean between the toes…after outdoor walks, and be sure to clean lime rock salt or calcium chloride salt off their paws, both of which can cause digestive problems if the dog licks it.

Your dog is smaller and thus more vulnerable to the chills you feel, so just a short exposure to sub-zero temperatures can produce frostbite of the feet, nose, or ears. Frost-bitten skin is usually red or gray and may peel off. It should be treated by applying warm, most washcloths to thaw the affected areas slowly, and if serious, a veterinarian should be contacted for further care. Prolonged exposure to cold weather, especially accompanied by high winds (the wind chill factor) can lower the body temperature. This condition, known as hypothermia, can interfere with normal bodily functions and result in injury or death.

The ASPCA offers these tips to keep your pet safe in cold weather:

  • Pets should NEVER be left outdoors for extended periods of time when it is extremely cold. IF IT IS TOO COLD FOR YOU, IT IS TOO COLD FOR YOUR DOG!
  • Never let your dog off-leash in the snow or ice. He can become disoriented and lost, even in a familiar area.
  • Massaging petroleum jelly into paw pads before going outside helps to protect them from the salt and chemical agents, but always take a minute to wipe your dog’s legs and stomach as well as his paws when he comes in from a walk. He might ingest salt or chemicals when grooming himself.
  • Never shave a dog down short during the winter. A longer coat offers warmth. Clothing for dogs has become a fashionable fad, but a high fashion garment is not necessary. Look for a simply styled, easy-on, easy-off coat that covers the underside of the dog as well as the back.
  • Animals like the sweet smell and taste of ethylene glycol, an ingredient in antifreeze, but drinking even a small amount can cause fatal kidney damage. Stay safe, by stowing containers up away from your pet’s reach, and discard bottles that are cracked or leaking. Clean spills thoroughly , and if you think your dog has ingested dangerous chemicals, get him to the vet immediately.
  • All pets need a cozy dog bed with a warm blanket or pillow, and older pets may need a little extra attention in cold weather. Whether it is another orthopedic bed, or a ramp over the frozen steps, small acts of kindness can help your older friend feel fine this winter, and don’t ignore small changes in behavior that might signal a medical problem.
  • Don’t leave your dog alone in a car. If the engine is left on, carbon monoxide may endanger his life, and if the engine is off, the temperature in the car will get too cold.
  • If you see or hear of an animal in distress, please contact your local humane society or law enforcement right away. You may mean the difference between life and death for her.

If you keep these precautions in mind, winter can be a fun, healthy time for both you and your dog!


Bad Breath, Bad News

Most pet caregivers do not take “dog breath” seriously, but if your dog has foul breath, it is probably periodontal disease. The American Veterinary Dental Society declares February as Pet Dental Health Month, and states that more than 80 percent of dogs have some form of periodontal disease by the time they are three years old. Partly because the mouth is warm, moist, and has significant nutrients present for organisms to grow on, the oral cavity of dogs is a perfect incubator for all kinds of bacteria. For the health of your dog, take a look inside your dog’s mouth. What’s in there? What does it look like? Healthy with firm gums or red, inflamed gums, with teeth held hostage in clumps of plaque and a foul smell.

Can you imagine not brushing your own teeth for a couple of years? Or even a couple weeks? According to the AVDS, many caregivers do not recognize the importance of dental hygiene for their dog, with more than half not making dental care part of a consistent routine, and only eight percent considering it as one of the top health concerns. When food remains on your dog’s teeth, it forms plaque which, if not removed, continually builds on his teeth and eventually hardens and usually results in serious tooth and gum issues. If not addressed thoroughly, dental disease can strip your pets of not only their teeth, but their overall health, allowing billions of harmful bacteria to enter their bloodstream and affect multiple other organ systems, doing damage to the heart, liver, kidney and lungs.

If your dog has bad breath, he needs a trip to your family veterinarian for a complete oral exam, because halitosis usually indicates both serious tooth and gum issues. Your best friend could already be suffering without your even realizing it.

You can usually tell if your canine is suffering from periodontal diseases. Strong or offensive breath is the most common sign of oral disease, and buildup of yellow and brown tarter on the tooth surface offer obvious visual clues. Other signs of this disease include loose teeth, gingivitis, drooling, lack of appetite, difficulty chewing, bleeding gums, and pawing at the mouth.

Dr. Sheldon Rubin, a leading veterinarian in Chicago, who includes Oprah Winfrey’s canines as his patients, says, “People brush their teeth twice a day and see a dentist regularly. Dogs need the same level of care and concern. All too often, I see terrible health problems because of poor dental care.”

Dr. Rubin suggests three ways to take better care of a dog’s teeth and health:

  1. Get a complete dental check up from a professional veterinarian.
  2. Make dental care a daily habit for your dog. Keep your dog’s dental care schedule parallel to your own, so it’s easy to remember. Tooth brushing is the single most important part of oral care and cannot be overemphasized.
  3. If necessary have your dog’s teeth professionally cleaned by your vet.

Oral health is essential for the well-being of all dogs, but they don’t know how to tell us that their mouths hurt, or that they don’t feel good, so by the time we recognize a problem, the disease may in an advanced stage.

Veterinarian Brook Niemiec emphasizes that “taking care of your dog’s teeth is like changing the oil in your car. If you do it regularly, you will avoid bigger and more expensive problems down the line.”

Old Dogs are the Best Dogs

It is always time to celebrate senior pets, but November is National Senior Pet Month, and animal welfare groups stress the importance of acknowledging, embracing, and truly celebrating our mature pets. As Doris Day explains, “Puppies are wonderful…romping and playing, tearing up things, chewing on furniture. Then they bond with you, and you learn that they are capable of giving unconditional love. No matter what happens, they are always there for you, through joy and sorrow, sickness and health, loneliness and despair. And when the years have taken their toll and they can no longer romp and play, they continue to give you all the love in their hearts…they deserve every bit of love and care that we can offer, for they have given their all to us Old dogs are grateful, devoted, and very faithful, and have earned our respect.”

Too often, older pets are viewed as disposable due to medical challenges, changing family situations, or simply because they’re not as much fun as they once were. There’s nothing sadder than senior pets who spend years with a family, and then find themselves homeless or in shelters, frightened and confused, where they are usually passed over by potential adopters who want a younger dog. The truth is that older dogs often have the perfect traits that people are looking for—they are quiet, calm, housebroken, and affectionate. They are true treasures!

A GRAND OLD MAN by Jeri Chrysong

My friend, I remember our earlier walks when you, in your youth, strained at the leash. I marveled at how a creature could walk so powerfully while simultaneously being choked to death by his collar. Today we walk together in the silence of great companions, my pace slower now to match your own, the leash of long ago abandoned. Your playful antics as a pup made me laugh. Your exuberant diligence as a watchdog in your middle years comforted me because I knew you would hear and alert me to every sound. I slept peacefully for many years. The realization that you have aged more quickly than I puzzles me..I am still middle-aged, yet you’ve entered your golden years without fanfare or much notice. You are a grand old man, and you are my best friend. Now, old boy, it’s your turn to lie in the sun and relax. Let me take watchful care of you and tend to your needs. Fear not that you have lost your usefulness, for when you look at me, still in trust and undeserved adoration, I find unconditional love and I am reminded to be a better person.

If you are blessed to have an older dog in your family, there are things that you can do to make life a little easier for your aging best friend:

  • Slippery hardwood floors can be difficult to navigate for aging pets. Non-slip rugs can ensure your pet has better traction when venturing around the house.
  • If your senior companion is losing her eyesight, it is important to keep clutter off the floors. Make sure there are clear pathways from your pet’s lounging spots to her food and water dishes. Keep her toys in the same place so they are easier to find.
  • Chances are, your older dog has some degree of joint pain. Make sure he has an extra comfortable place to rest those achy joints.
  • If your dog has trouble jumping into the car or up into his favorite chair, a ramp is an easy solution.
  • If you are not privileged to have an older dog in your own family, reach out to a lonely senior dog and make life better for him. Perhaps a neighbor or friend’s dog could use a little attention, or visit your local shelter, and you will find needy dogs who will appreciate any bit of attention that you offer them. As they share their beauty, dignity, and character with you, you will realize that old dogs are indeed the best dogs.

He is your friend, your partner, your defender—your dog. You are his life, his love, his leader. He will be yours, faithful and true, to the last beat of his heart. You owe it to him to be worthy of such devotion.


Autumn Safety Tips

Many people consider Fall their favorite season of the year…. brisk Autumn temperatures, the aromas of drying crops, and the variety of colors as the trees begin to lose their leaves, but although the seasonal changes have great appeal for people, they also present many potential health hazards for our dogs.

The pleasure of watching the colors of fall sometimes disappears because of the tedious job of cleaning up the seemingly endless supply of leaves. The noises created by leaf blowers may spook your dog, causing him to hide or even run away. Additionally, gas powered devices can leak oil or fuel, and create a source of toxicity if your pet licks a substance from the ground or on his paw and ingests it.

Piles of leaves remaining on your lawn quickly accumulate moisture, which promotes mold and bacterial growth which could cause digestive tract upset if swallowed, and burning dried leaves definitely can be become a fire hazard to both humans and pets.

Antifreeze works wonders in your car as cold weather comes, but it is a very dangerous toxin for dogs. Thousands of dogs are poisoned each year by ingesting antifreeze that drips onto garage floors and driveways, or is left in easy-to-open containers. Antifreeze has a sweet taste that makes it attractive to pets, and a dose of less than half a teaspoon per pound of body weight is a lethal dose. Most antifreeze products are almost all ethylene glycol, a potent alcohol that is readily absorbed once it is ingested. Some newer antifreeze products use 50 percent or more propylene glycol instead of ethylene glycol, making them safer than older products, but they can still cause alcohol poisoning, so it is important to exercise caution with these products, and minimize exposure your dog may have to them by carefully cleaning up any spills, and keeping your eyes open for any suspicious looking puddles when taking a walk.

If you move your plants indoor during the winter, be aware that many plants are poisonous to pets. Just a few include amaryllis, aloe, lilies, carnations, chrysanthemums, daffodils, daisies, philodendron, some palms and grasses, poinsettias, holly and common herbs. For a complete list, go to

Seasonal allergies can kick in for dogs in the fall, and although these are usually evidenced by skin allergies, they can also be allergic rhinitis, evidence by sneezing, loud snorting or snoring, and discharge from the nose. If your dog shows evidence of allergies, a vet visit is advised.

Ah, October…the month when the little mice start moving in from the fields. If you use poisons or traps to keep unwanted critters from taking residence in your home, be aware that any poisons that kill these little nuisances will also sicken or kill your dog, and accessible traps can injure a curious pet by snapping shut on an inquisitive paw or nose. There are no safe rodenticides, and whether out of hunger, boredom, or curiosity, your dog may consume these products, so it is important to keep any poisons in places that are inaccessible to pets and children.

With the shortened daylight hours, it is likely that you will sometimes be walking your dog during daybreak or twilight, and the best ways to keep you and your pet safe are reflective gear, flashlights or light up collars and leashes….all products that are available at pet stores or on line. Sometimes weather conditions make it difficult to walk outdoors, but regular exercise is important. You can exercise your dog indoors on a treadmill or set up an indoor “agility” course using household objects, such as clothes baskets, broom handles and furniture.

Dogs with short coats or no fluffy undercoat may need a doggie coat or sweater for their walks, but many dog coats are either worthless, difficult to put on the dog, or are obviously uncomfortable for him. Choose for practicality, not “cuteness.”

The fall season is a great time of year to enjoy the sights and smells of the season with your pet, and with just a few precautions, you can keep your pet safe, healthy, and happy during these crisp, cool autumn months!

Water Safety Tips for Dogs

Sharing water activities with your dog provides a wonderful bonding experience, and is a great way to beat the heat, but fun can quickly turn to disaster if you are not careful. Over 4,000 dogs drown every year! Some dogs are not good swimmers, and others simply do not like water, so it is important to consider the dog’s safety and comfort. Heat from the sun is more intense around water, so make sure he has shade… a dog’s sensitive ears and nose can get burned with too much exposure, and suffer from sunburn or heat stroke, and keep him off hot sand as it can blister paws.

If this is your dog’s first introduction to water, start slowly and be patient. Don’t assume he will automatically know how to swim. Let him approach the water and investigate in his own time. Never splash him, or force him to enter the water before he is ready, and never leave him unsupervised around water. Once his caution has turned to curiosity, try going in yourself, and gradually he should be confident enough to join you. If he isn’t interested in water activities, you need to respect his feelings. We have several kiddie pools at the TLC for the dogs to splash in…we assumed that they would jump right in to happily cool off…not so…most of our smaller residents right now simply do NOT like the water.

It might seem convenient to let your dog drink from the lake or the river, but this is not a good idea. Ponds and lakes may be contaminated with parasites and bacteria such as giardia that can make your dog sick. A serious risk associated with stagnant water is blue-green algae, which is very dangerous if ingested. Swallowing too much salt or chlorinated water can also make your dog ill, and many man made pollutants are found in many lakes and rivers, so be sure to always take along a separate supply of safe drinking water for your dog.

Dogs who enjoy swimming may not enjoy boating. Keep in mind that dogs are used to surfaces that are still and stable, and regardless of the kind of boat you have, let her get acquainted with the boat while it is still tied up. Keep her first boat trips short, and watch for any signs of motion sickness. BEFORE you go out in the boat with your dog, buy her a life jacket AND USE IT. Accidents happen, and cold, deep, choppy water can challenge the strongest swimmer… even dogs that swim well can tire very quickly because they don’t understand the concept of resting or treading water…they just swim and swim, until they can’t anymore. Never let your dog swim too far away from you because he could get into trouble very quickly, and make sure he wears a life jacket when playing in water that gets deep farther out, as well as on a boat. Make sure the jacket fits him properly and allow him a chance to get used to wearing and swimming with it before taking him out in deep water or on a boat.

Take a careful look at the variety of the life jackets for dogs that are available on the market….many of them are junk. Kyjen, the maker of Outward Hound life jackets for dogs, is a leader in outdoor and travel gear for dogs, and has a good lightweight jacket which boasts high visibility colors, multiple reflective strips, easy-grab handles, quick release buckles, and outstanding flotation. It is affordable, easy to fit, durable, and most of all, comfortable on the dog. Outward Hound jackets may be found in most pet stores or on

Another good life jacket is made by Henry and Clemmie’s, a relative new comer in the outdoor dog apparel market. Their products are made of sturdy nylon weight material across the yoke, and are made to last. Look for these at specialty stores introducing this new product at prices competitive with those of the Outward Hound life jacket. For more information, go to

Considered the Cadillac of canine outdoor equipment products, EZYDOG is the leader in agility harnesses and customer product reviews consistently give this life vest 5 star ratings. It is sturdy, well made, and comes in attractive designs. The cost of this jacket is higher than the other jackets, but if you are interested, check it out on

Water activities can enrich the lives of both you and your dog, as long as you keep safety and comfort in mind!


Prepare for Cold Weather

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