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Best Practices For Your Dog In Winter Weather

We often talk about the dangers of hot weather for our dogs – and there’s no doubt that summertime poses its own risks for our animal’s health and wellbeing. 

However, in the depths of winter here in South Dakota, making sure our dogs are kept safe from freezing temperatures and slippery conditions underfoot is of paramount importance. When the thermometer constantly ticks below freezing, there are a number of health risks that are increased and potential dangers that must be avoided.

A large part of being a responsible dog owner is making sure that we care for our pups all year round, and we’re going to advise you on eight ways you can keep your dog safe once the weather gets colder.

1) Don’t leave them out in the extreme cold for prolonged periods

This one should be self-explanatory. If you let your dog outside to use the bathroom or run off some energy in sub freezing temperatures, make sure they are not outside for longer than is absolutely necessary. Not only could your dog find themselves wrapped up in a number of hazards that come with the cold weather, but staying outside can affect their circulation and increase the chances of frostbite or hypothermia. 

2) Protect their paws

When humans head outside in cold conditions, we typically wrap up in scarves, hats and gloves to protect the vulnerable parts of our bodies. A dog often has no such luxuries, and their extremities (i.e. their paws) are in direct contact with the ground with no respite. It is therefore essential to keep your dog’s paws safe during the winter months. 

Consider using dog boots to protect against freezing ice or snow. Another option is a moisturizer designed specifically for dog’s paws to mitigate against cold and cracked or damaged paw pads.

3) Watch out for antifreeze

The moisture present in the snow can heighten a dog’s already sensitive olfactory system, which can potentially be dangerous when antifreeze or deicing agents become mixed in with the snow. 

The scent of antifreeze may be somewhat sweet and appealing to dogs, but it can be lethal if ingested. Watch out for blue or green-colored areas on driveways and sidewalks, and ensure you wipe down your dog’s paws when you return home from a winter walk – this will stop them from licking the substances and ingesting them.

4) Beware of heaters

When the weather outside is frightful, who doesn’t love to snuggle up next to a space heater or log fire in the warmth of the indoors? Our dogs are no different, particularly if they have been running around in the snow and ice. However, dogs do not always have the discernment of humans when it comes to their bodies, and they are at risk from burns if they brush up against fires or heaters. Make sure your dog’s bed is kept away from any space heaters and consider a fireplace guard to stop them getting too close to the flames. 

dog in snow

5) Don’t let dogs walk or run on frozen lakes/ponds

If your dog is fed up with trudging through several inches (or more) of snow, seeing an icy lake may potentially look like freedom. If your dog is off-leash, they may decide to explore and venture onto a frozen pond. This can be potentially fatal if the ice cracks and your dog falls into the icy water below. Always keep your dog close to you and never, ever let them walk or run on a frozen body of water unattended.

6) Don’t leave your dog unattended in the car

We all know the risks of leaving dogs in cars during those sweltering summer months, but remember it can be just as dangerous in the winter. With no source of heat, dogs can rapidly become cold and stressed if left alone in a car during freezing temperatures. If you can’t take your dog out of the car with you when running your errands, it is safer to leave them in the comfort and warmth of your home.

7) Know your dog’s specific health issues

Managing our dog’s health typically comes down to knowing the individual nuances of our pets. If you have an older dog, or a dog with a history of joint pain, the colder temperatures are likely to exacerbate these issues. Consider ways to provide physical and mental stimulation to your dog indoors, or wait until the coldest of the weather subsides before you let them play outside.

8) Be prepared to warm them up

If you take your dog out in freezing weather, you’ll know that you will have to warm them up when you return home. Have a plan in place beforehand, and make sure they have a cozy environment to return home to. 

Blankets or towels can be used to dry them off or you can also use a blowdryer on the lowest setting to warm up their fur, but do not use it for long periods of time, and avoid directly heating their sensitive paw pads. Resist the temptation to give them a warm bath to warm them up – this can actually do more harm than good by potentially warming them too quickly and shocking their system.

In conclusion

Common sense should dictate how you take care of your dog in any situation, and colder weather conditions are no different. Once you understand the potential risks, preventative measures can be put in place to mitigate any problems. Understanding your dog’s personality and specific health issues can also help you to reduce the risk of anything going wrong.

Taking those extra moments to think about the wellbeing of your dog can help both you and your pup to enjoy the beauty of the winter months together.

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