Keeping Winter Wonderland Safe for Your Dog

dreamstime_m_3531429By Maureen Werther

Winter in the Northeast brings lots of changes to our region. Some of them are wonderful – a day inside baking, cuddling up by a cozy fire, sledding with your kids – and, depending on Old Man Winter, snow, ice, sleet and bone-chilling temperatures.

Just like humans, dogs need to be prepared to cope with the changes to their outdoor environments. Here is some simple, but useful information to keep your beloved pets healthy, safe and secure as they frolic in their winter wonderland.

The weather outside is frightful – brrrr!

When the mercury plummets, rule of thumb advice is, if it’s too cold for you to be outside for any length of time, it’s too cold for your pooch. Of course, I had two Bernese mountain dogs who loved nothing more than cavorting through the snow and, resting afterward atop the nearby pile of snow left by the plow. Even a favorite treat couldn’t lure them back inside.
They had thick coats of fur to insulate them from the chilling temps. Even so, I made them come in after 20 minutes. Many dogs do not want to be outside for any length of time when Jack Frost is in town. If you have a dog with a short or thin coat, get them a warm turtleneck-type sweater that covers most of their body, especially their vulnerable stomachs. And, never ever leave your dog outside for prolonged periods of time! Just because they have fur does not mean that they cannot suffer from hypothermia, or worse.

Paws-itive Winter-time Care for Your Pooch’s Paws

While research has shown that canines have a larger number of blood vessels closer to the surface of the skin on their pads, that doesn’t mean they won’t feel the ill effects of snow and ice getting stuck in their paws.

There’s also the very real and toxic danger caused by de-icing agents strewn on winter sidewalks. You wouldn’t consider ingesting these chemicals. Don’t let your dog inadvertently consume them by licking his paws after going out for his walk.

 

Here are three ways to keep your dog’s paws clean, safe and in good condition:

1. Massage petroleum jelly or other protective balms made for this purpose into your dog’s paws and foot pads before going outside, and gently clean and pat them dry when you get back inside. In addition to acting as a barrier, these balms will also help keep your dog’s skin moisturized and prevent flaking and itchy skin. If you do notice that your dog’s skin seems dry, cracked or flaking, re-apply those balms, gently massaging them on the dry areas of skin.

2. Purchase booties for Bowser! If you can’t control what’s been thrown on the sidewalk outside, booties will provide additional warmth and protection from the natural – and the man-made elements.

3. Be in control of what you use for de-icing your outdoor stairs and walkways. There are several dog-friendly products available that won’t harm your pet. The best one is called Safe Paw, which contains much lower levels of the ingredients that irritate dog’s paws and pads. You can even make your own non-toxic and effective de-icers with products you probably have in your home.

One final note about keeping your dog safe in the winter months. Never leave your dog in a parked car for an extended period. While most everyone is aware of the hazards of leaving dogs in cars in the summer months, many people may not realize that the inside of a car in the winter becomes like a freezer, holding in the cold. Dogs have frozen to death from being left in cars. And, it doesn’t take that long for the temperature in a car to drop to dangerous levels.

So, if you know you’re going to be in the store, at an appointment or getting your nails done, it’s safer and more loving in the long run to leave Fido at home.

Here’s to enjoying a safe and wonderful winter with your pet!