We are still having warm days, but even after the seemingly endless days of summer (this year, in Austin, we had 90 days of 100+ degree heat) there is a hint that winter is just around the corner. It is time to review important winter tips for keeping your pet healthy and happy.
Morton’s Salt (maker of the pet-safe Morton® Safe-T-Pet® Ice Melt), in conjunction with the ASPCA has developed a public service campaign to keep your dogs safe this winter – National Keep Pets Safe in Winter Day – the first day of winter, December 22. The purpose of the campaign, which runs through January 2012, is to share important pet safety tips with as many pet owners as possible to help reduce winter weather-related pet injuries and fatalities. These tips can be found on Morton’s website.
Here are the winter dog care tips from the ASPCA’s website:
- Never let your dog off the leash on snow or ice, especially during a snowstorm, dogs can lose their scent and easily become lost. More dogs are lost during the winter than during any other season, so make sure yours always wears ID tags.
- Thoroughly wipe off your dog’s legs and stomach when he comes in out of the sleet, snow or ice. He can ingest salt, antifreeze or other potentially dangerous chemicals while licking his paws, and his paw pads may also bleed from snow or encrusted ice.
- Never shave your dog down to the skin in winter, as a longer coat will provide more warmth. When you bathe your dog in the colder months, be sure to completely dry him before taking him out for a walk. Own a short-haired breed? Consider getting him a coat or sweater with a high collar or turtleneck with coverage from the base of the tail to the belly. For many dogs, this is regulation winter wear.
- Never leave your dog alone in a car during cold weather. A car can act as a refrigerator in the winter, holding in the cold and causing the animal to freeze to death.
- Puppies do not tolerate the cold as well as adult dogs, and may be difficult to housebreak during the winter. If your puppy appears to be sensitive to the weather, you may opt to paper-train him inside. If your dog is sensitive to the cold due to age, illness or breed type, take him outdoors only to relieve himself.
- Does your dog spend a lot of time engaged in outdoor activities? Increase his supply of food, particularly protein, to keep him, and his fur, in tip-top shape.
- Like coolant, antifreeze is a lethal poison for dogs and cats. Be sure to thoroughly clean up any spills from your vehicle, and consider using products that contain propylene glycol rather than ethylene glycol.
- Make sure your companion animal has a warm place to sleep, off the floor and away from all drafts. A cozy dog bed with a warm blanket or pillow is perfect.
In addition to these fine recommendations, I have few of my own to add to the list.
- Keep anti-freeze high on shelves in sealed containers and quickly clean any spills/leakage.
- When temperatures drop below freezing, limit outdoor time for pets. Coats and booties can help your dog stay warm. In particular, short-haired or elderly dogs benefit from wearing a coat or sweater. Also since sick or older dogs are more sensitive to cold weather, be very careful with them. For any dog sensitive to the cold take him outdoors only to relieve himself.
- Dogs might seek shelter from the cold in warm spots on cars, such as hoods, so be sure to check your car to make sure no animals have taken refuge.
- To reduce the amount of snow that collects between toes, clip the fur between toe pads.
- To help protect sensitive paws, coat them with cooking spray before walks in very cold weather.
- During deep snows, be kind to your dog and shovel out a potty spot for your dog.
- The air in most houses becomes dry during the colder months, which depletes moisture from dog skin and fur. Brush your dog vigorously and regularly to improve skin, coat and circulation.
- A thick-coated dog may needs grooming in cold weather since the fur can get wet and matted. Fur lofts and holds air thus helping the animal stay warm.