What You Need to Know
As the temperatures outside start to get lower and you prepare for colder weather, it is important to also prepare your dog for the winter. Whether your dog lives indoors or outdoors, there are dangers in colder conditions. Your dog’s health, food, and environment all need to be taken into consideration when “Old Man Winter” approaches.
Indoor Winter Hazards
During the winter, people and their pets tend to spend more time indoors, so it is important to keep the home environment safe for your dog. The following are some common issues to be aware of:
Outdoor Winter Hazards
Being outdoors in the winter can be a lot of fun, but it is important to keep in mind that dogs are susceptible to frostbite, hypothermia (low body temperature), and other cold-weather hazards. Dogs that live outdoors in the winter need special attention to protect them from the wind, rain, and cold. Hypothermia can affect normal body functioning and produce injury or, eventually, death. Fresh, unfrozen water must be available at all times. If your dog has a dog house or igloo, make sure the interior is insulated. Safe heated mats, along with a good layer of straw, are an option that can help keep your dog warm and comfortable.
Dogs that live outside should be able to come inside when they want to. Old or sick dogs should be kept indoors when possible and monitored closely for signs of illness. Even a dog that is used to being outside can suffer hypothermia and frostbite. If severe winter storm warnings or extreme cold weather alerts recommending that humans stay indoors are issued in your area, it is a good idea to bring your dog indoors, too. If your dog cannot be brought indoors, a garage or mud room can provide enough shelter in some cases.
Chemicals like ice melts and salts, antifreeze, and windshield wiper fluids can all be toxic and cause serious complications if dogs eat or drink them. Ice melts and salts can stick to the bottom of dogs’ paws, so it is best to wash your dog’s feet after he or she has been outdoors. Methanol and ethylene glycol, the toxic ingredients in windshield wiper fluid and antifreeze, can cause permanent kidney damage and even death. Carbon monoxide poisoning can occur if dogs are left in cars with the motor running or in a garage with a running car.
Going for walks in the winter can be invigorating, but it is best to keep dogs away from frozen water. Dogs can fall through thin ice into freezing water and may suffer hypothermia or drown.
Holiday Season Hazards
We all look forward to the winter holiday season each year, so it is particularly tragic when a family pet is harmed during this time. Paying special attention to safety as you celebrate is very important.
We all want our pets to enjoy the winter and holidays with us. By taking a few precautions and preventive measures, dogs can be protected from many common winter hazards.
More Cold-Weather Tips
The ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) has more cold-weather tips at its website: www.aspca.org. Additional information about toxic houseplants, antifreeze, and other winter toxins is available at the Animal Poison Control Center: http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/poison-control/.
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