Since most of the United States is currently enjoying winter weather, here are a few tips to help keep your dog healthy and safe in the winter.
Even though dogs are covered in fur and appear to be happy while running around in the snow and ice, they can still get cold or injured because of the unpredictability of winter conditions.
If your dog will spend a lot of time outside in your absence, be sure to provide protection from the wind and snow. Provide a doghouse that is insulated with enough blankets, etc to allow your dog to be comfortable even in the worst of weather. Make sure that access to a pet door is free from obstruction by snow and if direct access to the heated home is not provided, make sure there is a soft, warm pet bed in the garage or mudroom. When temperatures are extremely low, never leave your dog outside (or left unattended in the car).
While most dogs love to play and run in the snow, snow and ice can get stuck in between their toes and pads of the paw. In addition to reducing traction on snow and ice, which can lead to slipping and orthopedic injury, it will also cause the dog’s temperature to drop. Check your dog’s feet periodically to make sure snow and ice are not accumulating in these areas to prevent unnecessary injury or hypothermia.
When walking outdoors, try to avoid walking on roads or pathways that have been treated with ice-melting chemicals as these can damage your dog’s paws. In addition, try to prevent your dog from ingesting any snow treated by these chemicals as well as they can result in serious illness. After taking your dog for a walk, if you think the dog has had any contact with ice-melting chemicals, wash the feet with warm water as soon as you arrive home. Be sure to check your dog’s paws for cuts and bruises after heavy exercise in the snow and ice.
While throwing snowballs for your dog to catch is a time-honored tradition and lots of fun, make sure to monitor how many snowballs you are throwing if the dog decides that eating the snowball is fun. A few too many swallowed snowballs may make the dog nauseous and will also certainly contribute to a drop in body temperature.
By following just a few simple rules and paying attention to details, both you and your dog should be able to spend quality time outdoors and have a safe and enjoyable winter.