Pets and Winter – Let’s Keep Them Safe Out There

by SAM HYER

Pets need more than just a fur coat to keep warm and safe in winter. Cold weather has safety and health concerns for both people and pets. As a responsible owner, it is important to pay attention to your pet’s well-being during the cold Michigan winter. The American Kennel Club® and I, offer the following advice to help you and your pet survive the long, cold winter.

  • Provide plenty of fresh water – Your dog is just as likely to get dehydrated in the winter as in the summer, and snow is not a satisfactory substitute for water.
  • Provide plenty of food – Feed your dog additional calories if it spends a lot of time outdoors or is a working animal. It takes more energy in the winter to keep body temperatures regulated, so additional calories are necessary. Dogs that are kept indoors with the family, and get less exercise during winter months, may actually gain weight, so keep an eye on his diet.
  • Keep your dog’s paws dry – Rinse your dog’s feet and dry them completely after a walk. This helps avoid tiny cuts and cracked pads. A little petroleum jelly may soften the pads and prevent further cracking.
  • Groom your dog regularly – Your dog needs a well-groomed coat to keep properly insulated. Towel or blow-dry your dog if he gets wet from rain or snow. When you towel your pet be sure to blot, not rub, as that can lead to severe matting. Comb out your pet more often in the winter to keep the skin healthy.
  • Keep your dog warm, dry, and away from drafts – Adequate shelter is a necessity. Tiles and uncarpeted areas may become extremely cold. Place blankets and pads on floors in these areas.
  • Watch out for the following winter hazards:
  • Cold – Don’t leave your dog outside for long periods of time. Wind/chill makes days colder than actual temperature readings, and dogs are susceptible to frostbite on their ears, tails, and feet.
  • Ice and snow – Be extra careful when walking or playing with your dog outside. Your pup could slip or jump in a frozen lake, river, or pond and get seriously injured. Snow can muffle scents, and your dog can easily get lost.
  • Carbon Monoxide – Don’t leave your dog alone in a car. It gets too cold, and carbon monoxide from an engine left running is dangerous.
  • Antifreeze – Although it smells and tastes good to your dog, antifreeze is highly poisonous and can be lethal.
  • When you think of the phrase “cold nose warm heart”, consider that pets regulate temperature with their noses and pads of their feet, so if you see your fur friend hopping from foot to foot it is time to come in and warm up on your lap.

Enjoy winter safely with your best fur friend.

Sam is a dedicated pet care pawfectionist who lectures to schools and scout troops. She is a guest lecturer at the Pet Pro Classic in Dallas, the Atlanta Pet Fair and the All American Grooming Show in Chicago. She can be reached at: sam@hylerluv.com or 874-DOGS (3647).

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