News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Keep your dog warm and healthy all winter

Winter is arriving now in Sisters.

When the weather outside is frightful, it’s your job as a pet parent to keep your furry friend warm and safe. After all, Rover can’t quite put on a scarf for his morning walk or tell you when he wants to go indoors on a blustery day.

Keeping pets warm and safe during winter months should be a top priority for all pet parents. Frigid weather can be hard on pets, just like people. It is important to prepare your furry friend for the cold winter months ahead.

It’s a misconception that dogs are more resistant than people to cold weather because of their fur.

No dog, not even the toughest Arctic sled dog, is meant to spend huge amounts of time outside in the winter. A thick coat doesn’t protect all body parts.

“Their ears are exposed, their paws are in direct contact with icy cold and their nose is sticking out in the wind,” says K.C. Theisen, director of pet-care issues at the Humane Society of the United States. “Never leave dogs outside unattended for any length of time. Only take them outside if they’re going to be active and exercise.” Even then, you may need to shorten a walk if it’s really cold.

“Pets left outside for too long can suffer from hypothermia and frostbite,” says Dr. Ari Zabell, a veterinarian with Banfield Pet Hospital in Vancouver, Washington. “Extremities, like ear tips, paws and the end of the tail are particularly susceptible to cold injuries.”

If your pooch is whining, shivering, seems anxious, slows down or stops moving, get him back inside very quickly because he is showing signs of hypothermia. If you suspect frostbite, seek veterinary attention.

So, how cold is too cold? Dr. Lauren Cohn, practice-owner and veterinarian at Fishtown Animal Hospital in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, advises that pet parents be on the alert starting at 50 degrees Fahrenheit.

Just as you bundle up for cold weather, your pooch may benefit from a winter wardrobe.

Dogs lose most of their body heat from their paw pads, ears and through respiration. If your dog is comfortable in clothing, a sweater or coat with a high collar or a turtleneck that covers them from the tail to tummy are ideal.

Some breeds are more likely to benefit from a dog winter coat or dog jacket than others. Small dogs, short-haired dogs and bully breeds who don’t have an undercoat get chilly faster than a winter-ready pooch such as a Saint Bernard or Husky.

Make sure that clothing isn’t too snug around the neck, armpits and groin area. You should be able to comfortably fit two fingers to make sure it’s not too tight. You also want to make sure the material isn’t itchy, and there aren’t sharp edges, zippers or seams that can be irritating as they are walking or lying down.

Winter weather is tough on paws. To protect your pup, consider getting him some winter dog shoes.

Booties can help protect paw pads from injury due to snow or ice, and also keep salt and other deicing chemicals away from their skin.

If your dog doesn’t tolerate footwear, be sure to check his paws for signs of cold-weather injury or damage during and after walks. If your dog is suddenly limping, it could be due to an injury or an uncomfortable accumulation of ice between his toes or paw pads.

Please be very careful with sick or older dogs, since they are more sensitive to cold weather. Puppies do not tolerate the cold as well as adult dogs and may be difficult to housebreak during the winter.

Many pets become lost in the winter due to snow and ice, which can mask smells and make it difficult for animals to sniff their way home. Make sure that your furry friend has ID tags and a microchip with your up-to-date information.

The use of rat and mouse poisons increase this time of year as rodents seek shelter from the cooler temperatures by attempting to move indoors. Rodenticides are highly toxic to pets and if ingested could be fatal. If you must use these products, please do so with extreme caution and put them in places inaccessible to your pets.

Never leave your pet alone in the car in any weather. Just as dogs can suffer heatstroke in hot cars, cold cars can be deadly. A car can act as a refrigerator in winter, holding in the cold which can lead to frostbite, hypothermia and death.

Winter can be a beautiful time of year. It can be dangerous as well, but doesn’t have to be. If you take some precautions, you and your furry friend can have a fabulous time dashing through the snow together.


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