When the temperatures drop, our canine friends often need a little extra care. Even in areas with mild winters, your dog may need protection from strong winds and seasonal rains.
Use our ten tips for winter pet safety to keep your pooch warm and healthy when it’s cold outside.
1. Watch for ice.
Puppies and dogs that lack experience with nasty weather don’t always recognize icy patches when they see them. While your boots may have great traction, their unprotected paws can slip on frozen sidewalks and streets, leading to injuries. Keep an eye out for potentially treacherous surfaces, or have your pet wear booties with non-slip soles. Be sure to let him practice wearing his shoes around the house, before you venture out, since not all dogs will tolerate them.
2. Steer your pup away from areas that have been treated with ice-melting chemicals.
Many ice melts can irritate or burn their pads, and some contain toxins that will poison your pet if he licks his paws. Check with Animal Poison Control if you have any questions about products or substances that may or may not be safe. If you can’t avoid walking through ice melts, wash your dog’s paws as soon as possible, and check carefully between his pads for signs of cracking or other problems.
3. Frozen ponds can be extremely dangerous.
Especially in climates where the water freezes and thaws repeatedly—the ice never becomes thick to hold much weight. Stay away from them, and don’t let your dog splash along the shoreline. If he gets wet, hypothermia can set in quickly.
4. Never leave your pet in a closed-up car with the engine running.
This warning doesn’t only apply to the summer months. Don’t leave him in a closed car that’s running during the winter either, even if you think you’ll be right back. Odorless, colorless carbon monoxide can build up, and it’s deadly.
5. Quickly remove any antifreeze spills or drips.
Spills from antifreeze may be found in your garage or driveway. Dogs like its sweet taste, but even a small amount, if ingested, can be fatal.
6. Make sure your four-legged friend has an insulated, dry place when spending time outside.
A doghouse or other shelter would suffice. Choose a size that has room for him to turn around, lie down, and curl up. If the house is too big, he may not use it, or it may let too much of his body heat escape.
7. Keep plenty of clean, dry bedding in your dog’s house or outdoor shelter.
Add a flap to the door, if the house doesn’t have one, to help protect Fido from the wind and rain. A see-through flap is a nice touch for dogs that are anxious about pushing through doors.
8. To keep your pet toasty warm, add a heated kennel mat to his shelter.
Be sure any electrical cords are covered, so he can’t chew on them. Some mats can make the floor too hot, so check it with your hands from time to time. If your dog doesn’t seem to like it, remove it and use a thick layer of straw or other bedding instead.
9. Consider a heating unit.
Especially if you live in a region known for frigid winters. A small furnace (like a Hound Heater) that mounts inside a doghouse comes with a fan to circulate the warmed air and a thermostat for convenient control. You can also opt for a model with a fan that ventilates the house in the summer.
10. Groom your pet regularly to keep his coat in good condition.
Give him a high-quality food with the nutrients your vet recommends. Healthy coats and skin are the first line of defense against cold, dry winter air.
Editor’s Note: From doggy sweaters to booties, here are 5 tips for winterizing your pet.
Until spring arrives, remember: the best place for your beloved pet during the winter is usually in your own home, so when the temperatures plunge, bring him inside. While you keep him warm, he’ll snuggle up and keep you cozy, too.
Lynn Coulter is owned by two rescue dogs—Molly and Miss Paws—and occasionally blogs at LynnCoulter.com. She’s also the author of three books and a freelancer who writes about travel, gardening and more. She and her husband live in metro Atlanta, where they cheer for the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets and spend their money on dog biscuits.