Q: This is my first winter in Pennsylvania, after moving from Florida. What do I need to know to keep my dog Riley safe in the cold weather?
A: Many people erroneously believe that a dog’s fur coat protects him from the cold. Unfortunately, dogs are as susceptible to the cold as humans are, so they can quickly develop hypothermia and frostbite during the winter.
Puppies and elderly dogs are especially sensitive to temperature extremes, as are dogs with chronic conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and arthritis.
When you take Riley for a walk on cold days, consider dressing him in a sweater or coat—and possibly boots. Remove snow balls from between his toes and wash any salt from his feet. If he has long hair between his toes, clip it to decrease snow ball formation.
Around your home, replace rock salt with a pet-safe deicer, which is more effective than salt at low temperatures. In addition, pet-safe deicers are safe for children, and they don’t damage grass, concrete, asphalt, carpets or wood floors.
Another winter risk is antifreeze, a yellow-green liquid that tastes sweet. Antifreeze contains ethylene glycol, which causes permanent kidney damage and death. If you see an antifreeze puddle, blot it up with paper towels, throw the towels into a bag, and dispose of the closed bag in a covered trash can.
Pennsylvania recently strengthened its animal cruelty laws to protect dogs left outdoors during inclement weather. Penalties may include a fine, jail time and forfeiture of the dog.
Lee Pickett, V.M.D. practices companion animal medicine. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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