Well judging from the storm I drove in this past Sunday for 12 hours, which included sleet, rain and snow from Virginia to New Jersey, Old Man Winter is upon us. So we must keep our dogs, and cats safe.
I love walking my dogs in all kinds of weather and especially enjoyed it this morning on our walk as it began to snow. However, it is important to watch your dog for signs of cold such as shivering and lethargy. This morning, as I watched my student and my own dogs eat the snow, it looked awfully cute but while it looks cute stuck on their nose, it can also quickly bring down their internal temperature and I don’t know what is in that snow, which can become dangerous.
As I sit and write this, my Frenchie curled up on my lap and the fireplace is giving me much needed warmth but when you are a dog and you are walking in the snow, the snow can become firmly packed within the pads of the feet and create a painful walk as well as help the body begin cool down too quickly. This is especially true if you have a dog with Cushings, diabetes or arthritis, keep this in mind as you walk. They can not regulate their temperature as well as younger, healthier dogs.
Be certain to continually check your dog’s coat on longer walks as the snow can also become little ice balls and get stuck in the furnishings on his coat.
The salt on the road and on the sidewalks can also irritate your dog’s skin. When you return, use a dry, warm towel to dry his feet. I use a wet, warm washcloth to clean the feet. Watch that they are not licking their paws. You do not want them ingesting any of the chemicals found in deicers.
Always keep enough food and water in the house, should you become stuck. Canned pumpkin is always a good emergency food as it is nutritious and if you are short on dog food, mixing that with rice short term will help prevent any diarrhea when you return to their regular diet or if you have to change foods.
If you exercise your dog a lot in the cold, be sure to increase his food intake as he will burn more calories in the cold. Also don’t leave him outside but if you must, remember the water bowl will freeze so you need to check it frequently or better yet, get an electric heater for the bowl.
I keep a towel by the door and like to put rain coats on my dogs. It keeps them drier and my floor cleaner. I lived in South Florida for 18 years and if my dogs got wet from going outside to relieve themselves it wasn’t cold out and it would be a just a sprinkling of rain on their coat. Now that I am back up north, when it rains, it is usually cold and heavy so toweling them off after the walk is good but a rain coat makes it easier and less time consuming.
Not only do you need to be careful for your dog’s safety when walking, but yours as well. Remember in the snow, cars slide, so be watchful of the cars around you. Also be certain that you have voice control over your dog. If you should take a spill, please make sure your dog will not become frightened and run, if you drop the leash. And please, make sure you are not using a retractable leash with your dog. That is even more dangerous in the ice and snow. Teach your dog the simple commands of come and stay, as well as, leave it and heel. This will stop them from picking up something they shouldn’t and not allow them to pull you down. Also be watchful of icy waters, just as people can fall through, so can your dog.
When you leave in your car, you may not have a cat, but your neighbor’s cat may have decided to crawl up into your car to keep warm. Before turning on the car, give it a good tap on the hood so that cat can jump out before starting it.