Before the chill in the air turns into the cold of winter, make certain that both you and your dog are fully prepared to stay safe and warm.
For pet parents living in houses, it’s advisable to have the furnace checked for signs of carbon monoxide leakage before turning it on for the first time. If dogs spend more time at home than you during the winter months, they will, naturally, be more vulnerable to carbon monoxide poisoning. As a precaution, arrange a pre-winter examination with your vet to determine if there are any medical problems that may make your dog more susceptible to the cold.
Keep your dog warm this winter but keeping them indoors, preferably in a warm “go to” place away from drafts. To ensure their skin and coat are protected against the drier air – inside and out — brush them more often than usual. Pay special attention to both elderly and arthritic dogs, as their joints may stiffen in the cold, making their movements more awkward and painful.
If you have a wood-burning fireplace and light a fire, ensure that your dog is a safe distance from the heat, flames and flying embers. This reduces the risk of singed fur, hair, paws and tails. The same applies to space heaters, except that, in this case, a dog can knock over the heater itself, possibly causing a fire.
As the days grow darker and shorter, and the thermometer plummets, so does the mood of millions of people living in the Northern Hemisphere. We now know that humans are not the only ones affected by what scientists refer to as Seasonal Affective Disorder. Weather permitting, the happiest, healthiest dogs are those being walked and exercised on a regular basis. But before going outside, dress your dog — particularly seniors and smaller breeds – in a heavy sweater or coat. The colder the temperature, the greater the protection (this applies to most dogs) including waterproof, padded parkas with hoods and dog booties.
Always keep your dog on-leash, whether you’re on a city street or in the country near a frozen pond or lake. There’s nothing more dangerous or frightening than a dog running loose in the snow, possibly losing all sense of direction, or falling through the ice into the water.
When it’s cold and snowy, many dogs will resist pottying outside. Ensure that they’re warmly, but comfortably dressed, and stand close to them, perhaps with an opened umbrella to shield them and keep them dry.
During the winter months, it is critical to keep up with dog paw and coat care. Dogs lose most of their body heat from the pads of their feet, their ears, and their respiratory tract. Monitor them closely for any signs of discomfort. If they begin to shiver or whine, appear anxious, slow down or stop moving altogether, it’s time to go back inside. Be on guard as well for two more serious conditions: frostbite and hypothermia.
Once indoors, dry your dog thoroughly, paying special attention to their paws and the pads of their feet. Licking at any salt and antifreeze coating their pads can make them sick, while the combination of ice and salt can cause their pads to crack and bleed.
Never leave your dog alone in a car for any length of time on a cold day. Cars are like giant refrigerators on wheels. The only safe place for your dog on a cold day is a warm home.
Dogs should never be kept outside during the winter. But if they must be left outdoors for a limited amount of time, they must have a warm, well-insulated shelter (straw traps heat best) to protect them from the wind and cold. And take care to keep their water bowl – plastic, not metal – filled with fresh, not frozen, water.
After checking this list, not once, but twice, you’ll be more than ready to let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.