Winter Care for Dogs Outdoors by Diane Black

There are all kinds of weather conditions which can affect your dog and how you should care for them. Winter is one of the most hazardous for dogs as many things can happen. Just as our children need extra care during winter months, so do our dogs. Here are a few suggestions to keep everyone safe and warm this winter:

  • Dogs should not be walked if the temperature reaches below -20 degrees.
  • Small indoor dogs should have a coat and booties.  The coats will provide extra warmth while the booties will protect their feet from the sands and salts on the sidewalks or roads, depending on your living area.
  • When they come inside from their walks, rinsing their feet off will assist in removing the salts and sands from between the pads of their feet and between their toes.
  • When your dog is outdoors for longer than a quick walk, do not use a metal collar or chain of any kind as the metal can freeze to the dogs fur and can be painful when attempts are made to separate the fur from the chain.
  • Dogs should also have the hair between the pads of their feet trimmed as it tends to get long. This will help to prevent the fur from freezing to the ice and snow.
  • Insulate your doghouse as you would your own house. This will provide him or her with a source of warmth in the winter and gives a means of protection and shelter against the harsh winter weather. People should be careful when using straw for their dogs. If the straw gets wet, it can have mites and can also freeze.
  • As dogs need their water changed in the warmer weather, they need it to be changed more often in the winter. This is to prevent their water from freezing and allows them to have a fresh water supply on a constant basis.  Their water should be changed at least three to four times a day to compensate for the colder weather.
  • If temperatures reach -20 degrees, the animal should be moved indoors to prevent from freezing to death.
  • Do not leave a dog in the car while shopping. As in summer, where the dog could literally bake to death, in the winter, the dog could freeze as the temperature inside the car drops dramatically and can cause the animal to suffer cardiac arrest (heart attack).  The dog also uses up all the oxygen in the car as it continues to breathe.
  • Take extra caution when exercising your dog during winter months.  When exercising, your dog sweats and should be allowed to cool down slowly indoors before being placed back outside.
  • The dogs, both indoor and outdoor, should be fed twice a day.  This does not mean that they get double the amount of food.  Their regular daily amount of food should be divided into two servings – one in the morning and one for the evening dinner time.  This should is done in order to help keep the body temperature of the dog at its normal state.
  • When walking the dog during winter months, the dog should be walked on the inside of the sidewalk or road.  This helps protect the dog against cars sliding with icy roads and other hazards of winter.
  • Free running dogs should be carefully watched and controlled as they tend to run over creeks, ponds, lakes, rivers, and through forest areas.  Due to the weight of snow on the branches, they can break off and fall on the animal causing injuries. Dogs running on bodies of water can fall through the ice and snow if the water is not frozen enough. Your dog could get caught under the ice, the water could freeze over and your pet could suffer hypothermia (very low body temperature) causing him to die.
  • Remember, if your dog does fall into the lake, pond, DO NOT get too close to the opening as you could fall in and suffer the same fate as your dog.  The best idea is to keep your dog leashed and away from water when the temperature gets too cold. If your dog does fall in call for help immediately, 911 or SPCA.  This can freeze and kill the animal just as it can a human being.

For more information on pet safety, feel free to reach out to Park Road Veterinary Clinic!