Humans are not the only ones that need warmth and care as the mercury dips. Our animal friends need the same, though there is a widespread belief that animals are tougher than us and hence more suited to roughing it out in severe weather.
I have seen many dog owners not thinking twice before giving their dogs a time-out in the outdoors for unacceptable behavior even in the face of cold rain. Their reasoning? “He’s an animal! He doesn’t get affected by this!”
Well, not all dog breeds require us to keep them safe and warm during winters. Huskies and Alaskan malamutes, for example, were born to frolic in the snow and their thick coats protect them plenty from the cold weather.
Many other breeds, however, are not that well-adapted to freezing temperatures, and some no more than us.
I suggest you start by reading up in detail about the breed you own and how well suited it is to the extreme weather in your part of the world.
Some general pointers to keep your dog in the best of conditions regardless of her winter-sturdiness are as follows:
Don’t leave your dog outdoors for long
If you are in the habit of locking your dog out of the house during the day while you are at work, you must seriously reconsider this as winter steps in. You can get away with this if the afternoons are still somewhat warm, but if you live in a region that experiences cold weather throughout the day, with wind chill in particularly being a factor, forget about leaving your dog out when you are gone. Prepare an area in your home, preferably a scullery that opens into the backyard where your dog can rest for warmth if you don’t want to leave her indoors. Keep it so that the dog can come back in whenever the need arises. Leave the heating on, just in case.
Keep the radiators covered
Hot radiators can scald the skin of your pet. Keep them, or any appliances used for heating purposes, covered so that your inquisitive pet doesn’t end up hurting herself.
Consider additional warmth for your dog
When the cold turns bitter, or on days when despite the heating you want to bury yourself deep in your duvet, do spare a thought for your dog as well. If it is cold enough for you to feel the chill despite the heating, your dog could need an extra layer herself.
Check on her and see if she is comfortable. If she is curling in a corner chances are she is trying to make the most of the warmth in her doggy bed. To be safe, provide her with an extra layer of warm blanket but spread it out so that she can get out of it if needs be.
I wouldn’t recommend making her wear a coat during the day, especially if she is going to be heading out. Coats can absorb moisture or may even get wet due to the snow, making your pet colder. Dog shoes, on the other hand, can be a good idea as they will keep her paws covered against hard and cold pavements and prevent cold bits from lodging in her skin leading to other nasties.
Keep your dog well-hydrated
Water is as important in winters as it is during summers. Make sure her bowl of water doesn’t end up freezing or turning very cold. At all times, your dog should have access to warm surroundings and water, regardless of if you are around or not.
Give her fresh food
Winters place a lot of demands on our bodies and minds. Our immune system is constantly working to protect us from a number of infections in the air, and our bodies are constantly burning energy to give us the warmth we need.
Needless to say, we need more fuel during this time, and need the right kind of fuel.
Forget about frozen foods and prepackaged doggie grub for your pet. Give her fresh and nutritious food instead.
Watch out for frost bite
When you do let her out to play in the open, especially in the snow, which almost all dogs seem to love, make sure to wipe her paws when she comes in. Giving her a lukewarm bath is a great idea as that will rinse her paws of any ice or trapped debris. It will ensure frost bite does not set in. But if it does, see a vet immediately.
Don’t let her go near any lakes
You are blessed if you own open spaces and are surrounded by scenic beauty. But if you have any lakes in the vicinity that tend to freeze during winters, your dog is not going to be able to tell which parts of it are solid and which are just begging for a paw to rest on them to crack. This can lead to serious accidents, even if the dog knows how to swim. Make sure your dog doesn’t venture far from your home in this weather.
Keep her happy and engaged
Winter blues are real for animals as well. And with ungodly weather out there how often are you up for a morning run or a walk in the parks in the evening?
Just like humans, dogs do not receive as much exercise as they should in the cold weather. Make sure you do take out the time to play with your little one, however, or she may get bored, anxious and restless. That could lead to behavior you would want to avoid. Buy her new dog toys or accessories so that she has something or the other to keep her mind occupied even when you are not around. (There are not even birds to chase in winters!)
Common sense works well when protecting your pets from cold weather. Gauge your pet’s sensitivity to cold and make sure you keep her warm, well-fed, and clean at all times. Play with her every now and then, and you will keep both of you in a great mood as everything around you turns grey.
Nicola Reynor is a community manager and a web presence strategist for Dog Love It, the best doggy supply store ever! In her spare time she loves to write about her pet love, and go hiking with her two dogs.
Sep 25, 2013 1
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