Safety Tips to 'Winterize' Your Dog

by Liam Crowe
CEO and Master Dog Behavioral Therapist
Bark Busters USA

As the mercury drops and the snow piles up during the coldest part of the winter, dog lovers need to take special precautions to protect their canine companions from winter’s bite. To help, we’ve compiled a series of winter safety tips based on the experience of our worldwide network of dog behavioral therapists.

While it’s easy to think that dogs are immune to cold because of their fur, the fact is that more dogs perish in the winter than at any other time of the year. Frostbite, hypothermia and antifreeze poisoning present the biggest winter threats to dogs. But by taking a few precautions and using common sense, dog owners can keep their dogs safe this winter.


Bark Busters Winterizing Tips:

Beware of cold temperatures. While many dogs can be safe in outside temperatures down to 20 degrees Fahrenheit with proper shelter (see below), puppies, smaller dogs and older dogs should not be left outdoors when the temperature falls below 40 degrees. Shorthaired dogs, such as Chihuahuas and Greyhounds, can become immediately chilled after leaving the warm house, so they will need a sweater to go outside.

Keep older, arthritic dogs inside. These dogs should not be left outside under any circumstances. Escort the older dog outside for toileting and use a leash if the yard has ice or snow. Older dogs can easily fall and seriously injure themselves.

Watch for signs of frostbite and injury. Dogs’ ears, paws and tails are especially susceptible to frostbite. Initially, frostbitten tissue may appear pale or gray in color. The area will be cold to the touch, and hard. As the area thaws, it may become red. In severe frostbite, within several days the tissue will start to appear black. If you suspect frostbite, bring your dog into a warm location and soak the affected area with lukewarm water for about 20 minutes and contact your veterinarian. If your dog plays on ice or hard, frozen dirt, his paws are susceptible to cuts as his paws slide across these rough surfaces. Watch for chewing at his paws during long walk or periods of play. Always wipe your dog’s feet after a walk in the snow to remove ice balls and salt deposits from the road. Salt irritates a dog’s paws and can be toxic if ingested. Use only pet-safe ice melt.

Keep an eye out for hypothermia. If you notice shivering, lethargy, low heart rate and unresponsiveness, bring your dog into a warm area, place a light blanket over him, and call your veterinarian.

Eliminate the possibility of poisoning. Unfortunately, dogs like the sweet taste of antifreeze, which can make cause sickness or death if ingested. Make certain that all antifreeze containers are well out of reach of dogs and thoroughly cleanany spills immediately.

Provide a protective shelter. If your dog stays outside much of the time in the winter, make certain that his doghouse meets certain minimum criteria. It needs to be raised a couple of inches off the frozen ground or concrete. The inside needs to have a blanket, cedar shavings or straw, which should be changed frequently to keep them warm and dry. Add a flap to the door, and face the doghouse away from the weather. The size of the doghouse should be large enough so your dog can sit and stand, but small enough so his body heat will be retained in the house.

Supply fresh water. Use a plastic water bowl to ensure the dog’s tongue does not get stuck to cold metal, and change the water often to keep it from freezing.

Provide an appropriate amount of food. If your dog remains active in winter, he’ll burn more calories in the cold - and needs about 10 percent more food to compensate. If your dog becomes less active in the winter, try to keep him from gaining extra weight by cutting back his food and making sure you continue going for walks and playing with him.

Further train your dog during the winter while inside. Dogs that spend less time outside during the winter can become lethargic - or, in some cases, they become hyper. The best way to keep your dog active or to use his excess energy is to cause him to think. Providing 10-15 minutes of training daily on basics such as sit, stay, come, and walking on leash will energize the lethargic dog and cause the hyper dog to be more tired. Providing 10-15 minutes of workout twice per day will be even better. Provide your dog with a Kong or a Buster Cube to keep him active indoors. For a less active dog, make him work for his meal by placing it inside his Kong or Buster Cube.

Liam Crowe is CEO of Bark Busters and a master dog behavioral therapist. Bark Busters, the world’s largest dog trainingcompany, has trained more than 400,000 dogs worldwide using its all-natural, dog-friendly methods. Bark Busters training is the only service of its kind that offers a written lifetime guarantee. With hundreds of offices in 41 states and 10 countries, Bark Busters is continuing its mission to enhance the human-canine relationship and reduce the possibility of maltreatment, abandonment, and euthanasia of companion dogs. For more details, call 1-877-500-BARK (2275) or to find a dog trainer in your area, complete a Dog Behavior Quiz, or learn about becoming a Bark Busters franchise owner.

© copyright 2008 Bark Busters USA, All Rights Reserved

This feature may not be reproduced or distributed electronically, in print or otherwise without the written permission of SPCA International and Bark Busters USA.

This SPCA International article is intended to help further your understanding of your animal's needs. We understand yourunique bond with your pet and it is our pleasure to help you look after its welfare. Thanks to your continued support, SPCA International is able to provide you and countless others with important news regarding the safety of your pets. Thank you again for your donations – every little bit helps!

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