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Cold Weather Tips for Dogs

December 30, 2017

Despite the popular misconception, fur alone is not enough to protect dogs from the elements.  The fact is that, much like people, dogs have varying degrees of tolerance whcomes to temperature extremes.  Even the hardiest breeds are susceptible to hypothermia and frostbite. The Drs. at Peterborough West Animal Hospital warns, “With hypothermia we worry about depressed temperatures affecting the normal function of the central nervous system (brain), as well as the pet’s ability to effectively circulate blood and breath.  It’s this impaired ability to circulate blood (thus deliver heat to the periphery of the body), as well as other factors that can contribute to the development of frostbite.  Pets can die from hypothermia and those that suffer from frostbite will deal with pain and may lose affected body parts.”  Check Petey’s ear sometime when you are in.  Petey was found by the township workers frozen to the road when he was just a little kitten.  They rescued him and brought him to us – unfortunately he lost the tip of his ear and the tip of his tail from frostbite.  Luckily, hypothermia and frostbite can be easy to avoid by taking a few precautions:

Talk to the doctors at Peterborough West Animal Hospital about cold weather protection

Some medical conditions will worsen when it gets colder out.  One of the main ones is arthritis.   Arthritis might worsen in the cold months “because of the direct effect of the cold [which can cause] increased stiffness, and because the cold frequently brings icy/slippery streets and sidewalks.”  Before it gets to be wintertime your dog should have a checkup.  Having your dog checked by one of the Drs at Peterborough West Animal Hospital can help ensure that problems don’t worsen when the temperature drops. T his visit is also your best opportunity to ask one of our veterinarians about winter care.

Know your dog’s cold tolerance

Although all dogs are at risk in the cold weather, some are better equipped to handle it than others.  Huskies and other breeds from cold climates are certainly going to be more comfortable than other dogs, such as the Italian Greyhounds, when wading through a winter wonderland.  Also consider that old, young, wet dogs or dogs with thinner coats are at a greater risk of getting hypothermia and/or frostbite.

Take shorter walks with your dogs

The team at Peterborough West Animal Hospital feel that winter is a great time to nurture the bond with your pets. They want to be inside with you where it’s warm.  Short, frequent walks are preferable to extended walks during this time of year.  After that, it should be right back inside to clean the snow and ice from between their toes.  This isn’t to say that you should stop exercising your dog when it gets cold outside.  The winter is the perfect time to enter your dog into daycare so that he can burn off excess energy in a safe and social place.  Don’t forget about playtime at home either. Most dogs would love to chase a plush toy through the hallways.

Beware poisons

The Veterinarians at Peterborough West Animal Hospital warn that antifreeze is a common cold weather poison but not the only one to be aware of: road salt and rodent poisons are also used with greater frequency during this time of year.  Even if you don’t use any of those products, an unsupervised pet could easily wonder into a neighbor’s yard and find them.

Dogs may also lick their paws after a walk.  Every time you come inside with your dog you should dry his feet thoroughly with a towel to be sure he has not tracked in any dangerous chemicals.  Also check him over for any injuries to the paws: cracks, cuts, or scrapes. These kinds of injuries can cause pain and lameness.  Use pet friendly de-icing products on steps, walkways and driveways.

Keep your dog on a leash

Because dogs rely heavily on a strong sense of smell to figure out where they are, they can easily be lost during winter storms.  Snow covering the ground will make their surroundings less familiar.  Keeping your dog on a leash at all times – especially during winter storms – can help stop your dog from becoming lost.  Ask the team at Peterborough West Animal Hospital about microchipping, just in case.

Try clothing layers for warmth

For small dogs in particular, sweaters are not a joke, they’re actually very important during the cold weather.  Small dogs have a larger surface area for their body weight and benefit greatly not only from a warm shirt but also from booties. Our veterinarians at Peterborough West Animal Hospital confirm that dog clothing is no laughing matter.  If you see Dr. Giffen out with her poodle “Dottie” you will see her bundled up in her sweater, or a winter jacket and even booties to help enjoy the Peterborough winter.   If you do get booties for your dog, the vets at Peterborough West Animal Hospital urge that you make sure they are well-fitted and have good grip to prevent causing slips and falls.

Don’t leave your dog inside of a parked car

The veterinarians at Peterborough West Animal Hospital want to stress that this rule is as important during the winter as it is in the summer; a parked car can quickly amplify the affects of extreme weather.  During the winter it can act as an icebox and trap cold air inside.

Groom cautiously

It’s important to walk a fine line when grooming your dog during the winter. Taking too much hair off will mean he has less to keep him warm; leaving too much on will make brushing more difficult and could lead to matted hair.  Ask your one of the veterinarians or team members at Peterborough West Animal Hospital how often s/he recommends grooming based on your breed of dog.

Be sure your dog has choices when it comes time to go to bed. He should have comfortable spots in both hotter and cooler regions of the house. This will allow him to move around at night if he’s uncomfortable.

Dogs should always have access to water, even when outside

Never use a metal water dish outside in cold weather because your dog’s tongue can get stuck! (Think of the flag pole when you were a kid.)  You can also consider purchasing a heated water dish (normally used for feral cats) so that your dog doesn’t have to drink frigid water or be challenged to get enough to drink from a frozen water source.

Your dog will also need to eat more during the winter because it takes more energy to keep warm; however, the team at Peterborough West Animal Hospital doesn’t want you to make the mistake of feeding too much.  Obesity carries health concerns of its own. Contact us, your local animal hospital in Peterborough, ON!