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Winterizing Your Dog

If you’re a dog owner and/or advocate, you’ve probably heard this saying: If you’re cold, they’re cold. This adage is a standard for whether or not our dogs should be outside for extended periods of time during harsh and adverse weather. I wholeheartedly agree with this saying. If you’re just going to keep your dog outside it’s whole life, you shouldn’t have one. Yes, dogs are furry, self reliant creatures but they are also subject to sickness and poor health, especially when temperatures drop close to freezing and below. This is why winterizing your dog is a great idea!

Winterizing Your Dog

Of course, breeds like Huskies, Malamutes, and St. Bernard’s are bred with harsh conditions in mind. They are less susceptible to things like frost bite with their thick and boisterous coats. It’s generally understood that dogs with short hair or little to no undercoat need to be paid special attention, though. These types of breeds can’t fight the cold like their northern-bred counterparts.

All too often man’s best friend loses a life or suffers unduly due to neglect and poor judgment. Not many canine owners consider what it takes to own one. It isn’t like looking after a fish where you just drop a pinch of food in its bowl every other day and call it good. Some dogs, like people, have health conditions requiring special diets, equipment, and accessories to ensure their longevity and a reasonable quality of life. Here are some things to keep in mind when it comes to keeping your dog warm and protected with freezing temperatures and how you can help improve upon your pooch’s potential predicament.

Winterizing Your Dog From Ice and Deicers

A dog’s paw is an amazing thing! It helps regulate body temperature, navigate terrain, and even contribute to the health of dogs by storing and utilizing beneficial bacteria that helps fight off harmful germs and bacteria. That’s where that infamous “Frito” smell comes from. This sounds a lot like a human’s foot (other than having healthy Frito-foot bacteria). Naturally, we should consider special care for them. Things like ice and snow can get lodged in between the pads of their feet causing hypothermia. Ice can also be sharp and abrasive causing cuts which can cause infections.

Throw some salt or ice melt down to alleviate this issue, then, right? Kind of. Most deicers are effective because of the use of harsh chemicals like urea, glycol, and magnesium chloride. These chemicals break down the ice and prevent it from forming. These same harsh chemicals can irritate and burn the foot pads of a dog if left for too long. If a dog is diligent about grooming itself, it will most likely lick its pads clean. Ingestion of the same harsh chemicals used in deicers can be detrimental to a dog’s health for obvious reasons. This is especially concerning if you have a garbage disposal for a puppy like I do. Vomiting and diarrhea are signs that something is up, and that your dear companion may have eaten something it shouldn’t have (like chunks of salt rock) or licked up some deicer. In this case, get your pet to the vet immediately.

Luckily, in an effort to aid pets and their owners, companies like Morton offer a solution called Safe-T-Pet Ice Melt at around $25 for 8lbs. Alternatives like these are great for pets because they are made without abrasive chemicals like sodium and chloride. Safe Pet Ice Melt from Qik JOE is another option that outlines pet and environmental friendliness and is a little more valuable at around $30 for a 20lb bag.

Winterizing Your Dog With Booties

Most will not have a say in what kind of ice control their neighbors or municipalities are using. For that reason, I recommend a durable and versatile dog boot. Dog boots offer traction, protection, and insulation from harsh environments. Booties make it so you don’t have to worry about frostbite or what it is your dog is walking on and then licking off of their paws. Even better than the practicalities is the entertainment value.  The first days of your dog sporting footwear are almost always guaranteed YouTube hits!

Cost varies with size, brand, and degree of quality, but you could expect to spend anywhere from $18 for a set of Ultra Paws Traction Dog Boots to $35 for a much warmer and more durable set of waterproof boots from My Busy Dog These costs are easily justified when considering my best friend’s well being, and how expensive a visit to the vet can be.

Winterizing Your Dog With Coats and Sweaters

Unless you’ve been living in a cave without an internet connection for the past twenty years, you’ve most likely seen a dog sporting a coat or sweater. You may ask “is such a thing necessary to the maintain the health of a dog?” Of course! There are a quite few benefits to dressing your companion adequately for adverse weather. Dogs, like humans, suffer from deteriorating immune systems with increased age. If you let your elderly dog out in the snow and cold without proper insulation they are more subject to coughs and conditions like hypothermia than perhaps a younger, more able bodied dog. Smaller breeds like Chihuahuas and Yorkies have much less body fat to keep them insulated, making it much harder for them to maintain a healthy body temperature.

Even a large, longer haired breed might also have the same need for a sweater. Yes, bigger breeds like poodles and labs might have more fat to insulate themselves, but they also have less sufficient undercoats that have not adapted to colder temperatures. Another thing to keep in mind is that preexisting conditions (heart disease, Cushing’s disease, and hypothyroidism) can keep a dog from maintaining their body temperature properly because of poor blood circulation, the inability to grow fur, and an inability to maintain body fat. Places with low fat content, like ears, noses, and tails, are also more at risk of frostbite, much like human’s ears.

It’s a silly concept, but investing in a doggy wardrobe may be the best thing you can do for your furry friend. I’m sure they wouldn’t mind the relentlessly warm hug of a sweater, either. For cold and dry conditions, Chilly Dog makes a few different styles that will suit them well. For those days that are sure to soak you and your dog to the bone, WOOF offers insulated and water repellent jackets. However, you may have a harder time coercing Fido into such a garment if he’s already bulky.

Winterizing Your Dog with Proper Shelter

If your dog is required to be outdoors for significant periods of time, there are double-walled and insulated dog shelters that are easy to assemble and are fairly cost effective. Structures like Tuff-N-Rugged are available at very reasonable price points. There are also heated shelters that ASL Solutions produce that offer increased functionality. If you already have a dog shelter, you can buy the Hound Heater Dog House Furnace, a small, heated fan unit that integrates well into dog houses. Heated dog bowls are also a thing, because, well, water doesn’t do anybody any immediate good if it’s frozen unless you’re trying to make margaritas. But we’re talking about winter and margaritas are better served as a summertime drink anyhow.

Winterizing Your Pet and Protecting Your Investment

Pets, dogs especially, are investments. You invest time, money, and emotion into your furry companion just like you would any other member of the family. There are many ways to ensure warmth, health, and safety for your pet without breaking the bank, so that shouldn’t be an excuse. It’s easy to forget that they have such particular needs because they don’t have thumbs and can’t talk. For those same reasons, we need to pay more attention to them and the ways they are able to communicate their needs. Whining or whimpering, shivering excessively, looking for shelter, panicking, or the inability to move are ways to know that your dog needs to come inside. Abnormal behavior and excessive licking are clues of surface irritation. Vomiting and diarrhea and clues of poisoning and should be addressed immediately. Take care of your pets when it gets cold out, because your pets love you unconditionally, and that love should be reciprocated!

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