Temperatures have plummeted in many parts of the country, affecting all of us, and despite having fur coats, dogs are no more resistant to the cold than humans are. Even though we wear multiple layers, we still get cold, and so do our dogs. While some breeds can handle colder temperatures longer than others, the truth is that no dog should stay outside for extended periods during extreme cold. We discourage caregivers from keeping dogs outside all the time during any weather, but the risk is certainly worse when the temperatures drop below the freezing mark…and actual temperature is not the only factor to consider: wind chill can make conditions even more dangerous .. it is inhumane to leave dogs out in this weather.
If for some reason, it is not possible to keep your dog in the main part of your home, surely there is a heated porch, an entryway, even a corner in the garage that could be transformed into a warm, cozy retreat. Caring for a companion animal includes providing a warm, comfortable hideaway from inclement weather. If he has behavioral problems, the solution is not to banish him to the back yard, but to spend the time needed to train him. Good manners don’t just happen; it is the humans’ responsibility to help him learn good behavior and house manners. Dogs are eager to comply to house rules IF they understand what the rules are.
The VERY BEST place for your dog is inside your house: outdoors they can freeze, become lost or stolen, or be injured. Here are few tips to keep your pets safe during cold weather:
- Clip the fur between the toe pads to reduce the amount of snow that collects between her toes, and to help protect sensitive paws, try coating them with a bit of aloe or petroleum jelly.
- Dogs were not meant to wear clothes for “dress up”, but jackets , and sweaters can help keep your dog warm, IF you are selective in your choice. Most of them, are ill-fitting and leave the dog’s underside exposed, and are basically worthless. An excellent choice is the Thundershirt/sweater….a little pricey, but well worth the cost….check them out at www.thundershirt.com Another excellent choice is Fido Fleece dog coats, available from various venders on the internet..
- Be aware of your pet’s tolerance, and shorten your walks in very cold weather to protect you both from weather-associated health risks. Upon returning home, wipe snow and ice off your dog’s feet, to remove any salt, antifreeze or other harmful chemicals that she could ingest by licking her paws. (Many de-icing and ice-melting products are toxic.)
- Do not let dogs off leash in snow or ice. Canines can easily lose their scent in cold weather, and can also panic in snow storms and run away. (Be sure your dog always wears proper identification…just in case.)
- Be prepared in case of a blizzard or power outage, by assembling a disaster/emergency kit , and include your dog in your plans. Have enough food, water, and any medications on hand to get through at least 5 days.
- It doesn’t take long for companion animals to suffer and fall victim to severe winter weather. Frostbite occurs when the fluids in tissues freeze, frequently on the tips of the ears, paws or pads, belly and flanks. Hypothermia, which can lead to death, occurs when the animal’s body temperature drops significantly below normal, causing the body systems to shut down. If you see a dog shivering out in the cold, his very life may be at risk. He needs an advocate! Perhaps just quietly explaining the dangers to the pet’s owner may remedy a miserable existence for the animal, but if that fails, report it to law enforcement. You may be a freezing dog’s only hope for survival.