‘Baby, it’s cold outside” doesn’t even begin to describe the temperatures we have experienced this past week. We have endured the coldest New Years days in a very long time. Brutally cold conditions have prompted wind chill warnings from Virginia to Vermont and we have definitely seen our fair share of snow and ice.
News reports have confirmed that at least 22 people nationwide have died from the recent blast of winter weather and arctic air. If you are a dog owner, cold temperatures are not only inconvenient but could prove deadly to your pet if you aren’t careful.
Despite what many people believe, even if your dog has a thick, heavy coat, he will still feel the winter chill. The only way to guarantee that your pet won’t suffer from the cold is to stay indoors. Unfortunately, pets are just as likely to get frostbite (frozen skin and tissue) and hypothermia (low body temperature) as their owners. But it’s easy to protect your furbaby from the cold. Many of the same safety measures you take for yourself will keep your best friend safe and warm.
- Dress him warmly. Small dogs and those with short hair need extra help when there’s a chill in the air. Puppies and older canines also may find it hard to control their body heat. A sweater or coat can be a really nice addition that makes the pet more comfortable. Make sure the sweater or coat that you choose doesn’t restrict their movement.
- Make changes to her diet. Once you have cleared it with your veterinarian, you could keep your pal’s coat healthy during the winter by bumping up the protein and fat in her diet.
- Wipe down his paws. Ice, snow, salt, and toxic chemicals like antifreeze and de-icers can build up on your dog’s feet. If he licks them, he could swallow the poisons. Antifreeze, in particular, tastes sweet but can be deadly. Make sure you wipe his paws down with a towel every time he comes inside. Also, check his pads regularly for injuries. Ice and snow can cause painful cracks and bleeding. Trim the hair between his toes to prevent ice buildup.
- Don’t leave your pet alone in the car. You know not to leave your dog in a vehicle when it’s hot. The same goes for cold weather. People don’t realize how fast cars can cool down in winter. Hopefully you won’t be gone long enough for the your pet to freeze to death, but it won’t take long for him to get really uncomfortable.
- Pet-proof your house. Keep an eye out for winter dangers inside your home, like space heaters. Dogs can burn themselves or even tip them over and start a fire. Heated pet mats could burn your pal’s skin. A dog bed or blankets should keep him plenty warm.
- Protect against the elements. If you have no choice but to leave your dog outside for a time, make sure he has a dry, roomy shelter out of the wind. The floor should be raised several inches off the ground and sprinkled with cedar shavings or straw. Keep the doorway covered with waterproof plastic or canvas. Give him plenty of food, and check as often as you can to make sure his water doesn’t freeze over.
- Know the warning signs. Be on the lookout for symptoms of frostbite and hypothermia, and know when to call your vet.
Get your pet inside right away if he:
- Whines or acts anxious
- Can’t stop shivering or seems weak
- Has ice on his body
- Stops moving or slows down
- Looks for warm places to burrow
These can be signs of hypothermia. Once he’s out of the cold, wrap him in blankets and call the vet for more instructions.