Here in the Great Northeast we are lucky to experience the Four Seasons year after year. However, with Nature’s ever changing beauty also comes ever present challenges. Winters in the Endless Mountains present a myriad of threats to both humans and furry friends alike - including freezing temperatures, whipping winds, snow drifts and even ice storms. It is important to understand how winter weather affects your pup and to be aware of how to keep them safe and warm.
The first important thing to remember is that not every dog responds the same to cold weather. A little Yorkie is not going to fair as well in a blizzard as a Siberian Husky. Size of the dog, coat length and thickness, age and health are all factors that dictate a pups tolerance to winter weather. Just like humans, very young and very old dogs are the most sensitive to the cold.
Also, a pooch who has been exposed to and is used to cold weather might be able to handle the winter elements better than a dog who has not. However, all pups are still at risk for things like hypothermia and frostbite when the temperatures are dangerously low (i.e. under 20 degrees Fahrenheit). Wind chill and precipitation can also intensify the effects of cold weather. Consider having your pup wear a sweater, coat or booties to protect them against the elements. It is also important to remember that it's not just about making sure your pup doesn't "feel" cold - if they are too cold, it can affect their organs and other internal functions.
You may consider allowing your dog to “bulk up” during the winter to provide some extra insulation for them. This, however, is NOT a good idea. It is important for your pup to maintain a healthy weight. Unfortunately, being indoors often during the winter means less exercise, so you may actually want to consider adjusting the amount you feed your dog so that they do not pack on extra pounds. Also make sure that your pup is staying hydrated and drinking enough fresh water.
It is not just the snow and the cold that can pose a threat to your pup during the winter months. Here are a few other dangerous things to watch out for while you are out and about:
Sidewalk De-icers - Your pups paws can be very sensitive to certain types of ice melt - particularly calcium and sodium chloride. Be aware when walking your pup if you are on a road or sidewalk treated with a de-icer and always check/wipe their paws when you return home from a walk.
Antifreeze - Watch for leaks and spills around cars and/or in the snow so that your dog does not step in antifreeze - or worse - ingest it.
Frozen Lakes/Ponds - While it may be tempting to allow your pooch to play on the ice, it may be thin and there is potential that it can break and your pup will fall through.
So how will you know if it is time to go inside? Besides obvious signs like shivering or picking up their paws, your pup may seem anxious, begin whining or slow down while walking or playing. They may also experience shallow breathing or begin trying to burrow or look for a warm place to hide. It is important to keep a close eye on your pup and also watch for gray or pale skin, discoloration, redness, swelling or blisters on the paws, ears or nose. And most importantly - if it’s too cold for you, it’s too cold for your dog!
But what to do indoors so that your pup does not go stir crazy? Cuddle time is always a great option! Just as you make plans with your friends or significant other, plan to spend some time with your dog. Snuggling up and watching a movie might just be what you BOTH need! And even though your pup is not getting as much physical exercise as they normally do, exercising your pups mind will help combat anxiety and keep them occupied. Tricks and games are a great to pass the time and will satisfy your pups love for learning!