Safe Practices for the Winter
By Laura Pakis, CPT
Depending on where you live, winter can mean freezing cold, mild humid conditions, or anything in between. Wherever you are, you need to be aware of how weather conditions affect a dog.
There is no hard and fast number which constitutes weather that is dangerous. A harsh winter wind with a freezing wind chill can be just as dangerous as a cold, drenching rain. To make matters more confusing, healthy dogs not accustom to frigid winter weather or warm sunny climates may be uncomfortable until they adapt. It’s important to know each dog’s ability to tolerate weather changes rather than take chances.
As a general rule, puppies, elderly dogs, dogs with health conditions, short haired, and short legged dogs are particularly sensitive to cold temperatures. Being outside too long can lead to an increased risk of hypothermia or even frostbite for them.
It is important to be aware of the signs that could indicate they are cold: whining, shivering, looking anxious, slower movements, and intensely looking for somewhere to hide away from the weather. Also use common sense; if you’re not comfortable and have to bundle up, a dog could be at risk.
A veterinary visit might be in order if a dog hasn’t had a yearly checkup or if he’s not doing as well in the cold as he has in the past. Heart disease, kidney disease, and diabetes can interfere with a dog’s ability to maintain his body temperature.
Teach kennel staff to watch what dogs eat outside. Snow may cause upset stomach in addition to the possibility of hidden objects in the snow. Have the staff wipe off dog’s feet that come in to be boarded. Dogs can ingest salt, antifreeze, or other chemicals while licking their paws.
Consider adding on an examination of the dog’s pads. Dry winter air can contribute to drying and cracking pads. Pads may bleed from encrusted snow or ice. There are several products on the market designed to protect dog paw pads during the winter from “pet safe” de-icing products to protective waxes and dog booties. Offering products like Bag Balm or Musher’s Secret to your inventory might improve winter sales.
As with any danger, being aware and taking precautions are your best bets. Familiarity with cold weather health hazards can keep dogs safe while allowing them to enjoy the outdoors. So bundle up - both of you, and prepare for a safe winter season.
Laura Pakis is an experienced certified professional trainer and owner/founder of Acme Canine. A veteran dog trainer, Laura feels responsible ownership is an important part of having a dog and guides her business toward providing dog owners with not only training knowledge, but also care and understanding of dogs. Laura is a certified in Pet First Aid by the American Red Cross and PetSaver, is AKC Canine Good Citizen and Community Canine Evaluator, and AKC PuppySTAR evaluator. She is certified in breed selection, puppy development, assistance dog training, basic and advanced obedience, Police K-9 and protection training, tracking, E-touch training, and Pack to Basics.