Keeping Your Dog Safe in the Winter

Oooh, baby! It’s cold outside! In many parts of the country, the winters are long, wet, and cold, and they can even be dangerous for both you and your dog. Here are a few tips to keep your dog safe while you explore the wintry landscape outside your home.

dog in winter
In many parts of the country, the winters are long, wet, and cold, and they can even be dangerous for both you and your dog.

Food and water

Of course, you already know you have to keep breaking the ice in your dog’s outdoor water bowl to make sure he or she has continual access to fresh water. What you might not know is that your feeding routine may also need to be changed up. Dogs who spend a lot of time outdoors will use more calories to keep themselves warm. And, of course, dogs who compete in winter sports such as mushing or carting will need an athlete’s serving of calories to stay in tip top form.

On the other hand, if your dog’s activity level goes down in the winter while you and he hibernate by the fireplace, you will need to cut back on calories to prevent the problems associated with obesity. It’s much easier to avoid weight gain than to try to work off that extra weight later.

Escapes from home

Let’s assume you have a fence around your yard that is high enough to prevent escapes during the summertime. Have you ever looked at the fence when there’s snow on the ground? Particularly if you have kids who move the snow around while making snowmen or playing in the yard, you may find snow piled up against the fence which makes it just a hop, skip, and jump for your dog to escape.

dog in winter
When was the last time you updated the information on your dog’s microchip registry?

If you add a dog house in the winter, make sure you place it far enough from the fence line that your dog can’t use it as a stepping stone to get over the fence.

When was the last time you updated the information on your dog’s microchip registry? How about the phone number on his or her ID tag? Snow may cover up the familiar scents that can lead your dog home when he or she escapes. Make it more likely that a Good Samaritan can help lead your dog home in the winter by making sure your current address and cell number are on the ID tag. You won’t be home after your dog escapes – you’ll be out looking for him, so having just your land line number on the tag won’t really be all that helpful.

If your dog has developed any medical conditions since you had the chip inserted or if you have moved or changed phone numbers, make sure the chip registry is updated accordingly. Most shelters and vet clinics will scan all lost dogs for a micro-chip, but if the information is not kept updated with the registration service, this will be of very little benefit.

Incidentally, if you’re currently paying to maintain your information on a registry, you might want to check out Free Pet Chip Registry, which can be used with any brand of microchip and is totally free for the life of your pet. With the average implantation cost now lower than $50, there’s really no reason not to have a chip in every pet who lives with you.

Canine foot care in the winter

If your dog spends any time at all outside in a cold climate, there are a few special things you should do to make sure his feet stay healthy. When you groom your dog, make sure the fur between the toes gets cut short to prevent snow and ice from building up in this sensitive area. Small balls of snow and ice can become lodged between the pads of the feet and under the toes, which can cause frostbite if not removed in a timely manner.

Besides keeping the fur trimmed, you can also protect the dog’s paws with a commercial paw protectant such as PetHealth Pad and Paw Balm. A reasonable home substitute is non-stick cooking spray.

dog in winter
If you do a lot of winter walking with your dog, invest in a set of booties to protect from salt and other de-icing chemicals.

Finally, if you do a lot of winter walking with your dog, invest in a set of booties to protect from salt and other de-icing chemicals that can irritate your dog’s paws. Booties are available at both hunting / outdoorsmen stores as well as at pet stores, so shop around for the sales and best prices. There are many different styles; you will need to read some labels to find the ones that suit your purpose be it winter sports, chemical protection, or even just walkin’ in a winter wonderland.

Around the house

During the winter, you may have several areas of your house that you need to dog-proof. Don’t forget to put up any potentially poisonous holiday plants out of your dog’s reach. As you do your winter housework, remember to put up cleaning products immediately after use. Your dog may be spending more time indoors than he does during the summer, and his or her curiosity level just might increase due to the boredom of not having any squirrels to chase.

A wagging tail is often a magnet for candles, scented oils, and potpourri pots that have associated flames. Make sure these items are not left burning on the coffee table if you leave the room.

If you use a woodstove, space heater, or fireplace as your secondary, or even primary, heat source, make sure your dog cannot get close enough to get burned by a hot surface or wayward ember. Your dog may look really cozy there on the hearth, but let the logs settle and send out sparks just one time, and he or she could be seriously injured.

You may be using a lot more windshield wiper fluid and antifreeze in the winter. Keep in mind that both chemicals smell really good to dogs and taste really sweet, but they are poisonous. Clean up any spills immediately after servicing your car, and properly stow half-full and empty containers.

Water and ice

Seems like every year, our blog reports on a few dogs who have to be rescued after falling through the ice. If you live near a pond, stream, lake, river, or any other water, make sure you keep your dog leashed or in the yard. It is tragic to see these frostbitten dogs pulled from the water, utterly exhausted from having to swim or struggle to keep their heads above the freezing water. And don’t forget that the first responders are actually risking their lives to rescue the dog that didn’t know the ice wasn’t strong enough to bear his or her weight.

As you enjoy your winter routine, taking just these few extra steps will keep your dog happy, healthy and at your side whether you’re indoors or out.

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