Dogs, like humans, feel the cold and need special care and attention during the chilly winter months. Puppies and senior dogs are particularly at risk during cold weather and should not be kept outdoors for very long. It is therefore very important to know what precautions you need to take to ensure that your dog is kept warm and safe at all times during inclement weather. Consider the following points carefully:
Use a coat - small dogs and those with very little hair, such as Chihuahuas and Whippets, will obviously feel the cold much more than dogs with thick coats that are better suited to severe weather conditions. A whole range of sweaters and jackets can be purchased to keep your little companion warm.
Consider boots - the ground can be particularly cold during the winter and snow can make conditions treacherous underfoot. Snow can also hide all kinds of dangerous objects, and ice can be even harder to walk on. Salt and antifreeze can damage your dog’s feet and should always be washed off the paws with warm water after a walk. It is a good idea to get some dog boots for your pet to protect its paws and enable it to grip better.
Protect food and water - make sure that food and water bowls are kept in a suitable place where they can’t freeze. If you do need to keep dog bowls outside for any length of time, then use heated bowls to keep food and water at the right temperature.
Provide extra calories – during cold weather your dog will require more calories than usual. You may need to feed your pet more frequently or give larger portions at normal meal times.
Don’t clip – don’t have your dog clipped in the winter, as a longer coat will provide more warmth and protection when it is very cold. If you decide to bath your dog, make sure that it is thoroughly dry before going out for a walk.
Keep your dog in sight – dogs can easily lose their scent in the snow and wander off in the wrong direction, so it is always best to keep your pet on a leash when you go out for walks in bad weather.
Don’t let your dog eat snow – snow is extremely cold and can cause stomach upsets or even hypothermia if ingested. Snow can also harbour sharp objects or dangerous chemicals that could obviously harm your pet.
Take care with open fireplaces – If you have an open fireplace, don’t forget to place a safety guard in front of it.
Beware of frozen lakes and rivers - frozen bodies of water can be very treacherous in the winter. Never allow your dog to run across these areas, as the ice can be very thin in certain places and could easily break.
Make sure outdoor kennels are well insulated – Some dogs, such as Malamutes and Huskies, are suited to cold weather conditions, but most dogs will not cope well outside in chilly weather. Outdoor shelters should be well insulated, draft-free and raised a few inches off the ground. Shelters should also have plenty of dry, protective bedding like straw or wood shavings. The kennel should be checked regularly to ensure that there are no leaks anywhere.
During extreme weather conditions you should keep your dog indoors as much as possible. If your dog needs to go to the toilet outside when there is snow on the ground, clear the snow away from a specific area in your back yard to make it easier for your dog to use. If your companion ever begins to shiver excessively when it is out in the cold, always bring it into the warmth as soon as possible.
by Jane Grimshaw