By CARSON DESHEVY-RENOUF
During the winter it is important to keep yourself safe and warm in the frigid temperatures, especially in a season that can be more dangerous than it appears. What is just as important, however, is attending to your dogs, as often the danger and their winter needs are the same as yours.
Many of the things that dog owners can do to protect their pets while still allowing them to enjoy winter are both inexpensive and simple. The options range from not just products you can buy, but also in minor steps that you can take in changing how you expose your pets to the weather.
Over the past few years, more and more items have become available in pet stores to allow winter to be just as fun for dogs as it can be for humans. Options like “booties” and jackets for dogs, according to Kitchener veterinarian Robert Close, “can be very, very helpful” in keeping your dogs warm while outside.
Dog clothes, however, do not fully protect your pet as the cold air also poses the risk of frostbite.
“Quite often, the areas that get frostbitten are the ones such as the tips of (their) ears … taking them out for brief times and keeping them moving when they’re out there will often help with the circulation,” Close said.
On colder days, it is often best to keep your dog’s trips outdoors short, just as you would your own. Andrea DeLorenzi, an employee at the Kitchener Humane Society, offered a good rule of thumb when it comes to bringing your pets outdoors: “If you’re out and you’re wearing a jacket, it is probably too cold for your dog (without protection).”
The cold air itself isn’t the only thing that dog owners should be wary of. The salt that is used to clear the roads and streets of ice can often lead to a painful accident for your pet if they consume it.
“Make sure you avoid water that has salt mixed in with it, as that causes a super cold liquid that really is quite painful for the animals,” warned Close.
The fact that the salty water doesn’t freeze means that you may find your dog trying to drink from a pool of it while outdoors. Considering that the water is still often as cold as or colder than the air around it while still in liquid form, it can rapidly cool the dog as it goes down, causing intense pain in the process.
The dangers of salty water aside, the cold air in winter can effect different dogs at different rates. According to Close, the longer the hair on a dog’s coat, the warmer they will be. Whether your dog is large or small, their coat often plays a part in how much time they can spend in the snow.
Once your dog has had its fun, however, there are a few signs (both obvious and not) to look out for when deciding if it is time to take them inside.
“They’ll start shivering to raise their body temperature … They will also show you that they want to go in fairly quickly. The trouble is that they can often go out and get into trouble without really telling you a whole lot,” Close said.
The most important things that you as an owner can do, whether you take your dogs out to play often, or just let them out to do their business, is to pay attention. In combination with some warm dog clothes and some exercise, you can spend the rest of the winter with happy and healthy companions.
By CARSON DESHEVY-RENOUF