Medicine Hat Media

Winter Safety for Pets

As much as we all try to deny it and as much as we dread its arrival, it has arrived. The horrible cold-to-the-bone six month winter has undeniably made its presence known. For most of us that means changing out the wardrobe, winterizing vehicles and RVs, and of course stocking up on hot chocolate. However, there is additional preparation required for those people of the world that have furry friends, and wish to keep them from becoming furry ice cubes. Even though dogs have fur that doesn’t mean they don’t need a little bit of winter help. It is true that breeds such as Huskies and Malamutes are a little bit more cold-equipped (they have practice from running all those dog sled races), but even they need a nice warm shelter. Below I’ve listed a few tips for keeping your best friend a happy puppy while the winter rears its ugly head.

  • All dogs that spend any more than ten minutes outside at a time do require a heated shelter. For my three Golden Retrievers (Amber, Rocco, and Herc) I have a dog house with an overhead heater that keeps them comfy as well as a heated pad for Amber, who is old and hates winter as much as the next Florida Retiree. Of course, living inside the house is preferable but obviously this isn’t realistic for people like myself with three large dogs that get very rowdy.
  • I know we’ve all seen those ridiculous pampered little pooches with fluffy jackets strolling down the streets, or god forbid in their owner’s purse. As hilarious as they look, breeds with short hair do appreciate a little bit of extra warmth when it is cool outside. Such breeds include, Chihuahuas, Miniature Pinschers, Whippets, and Greyhounds. Unfortunately, (or maybe fortunately) some dogs just prefer the au natural look and will refuse that jacket like the plague. Don’t bother pushing it, it will be mostly fruitless.
  • Booties! Another seemingly ridiculous accessory that really does serve an important purpose. If your dog will tolerate them (I know mine wouldn’t) these silly little shoes will protect your puppy from dangerous hidden objects in the snow, give them a better grip on ice, and protect from getting frostbitten pads.
  • Whenever I watch the news and see a story about a dog falling through the ice on a frozen lake I just think about how easy that is to prevent. Never allow your dog to walk on ice unless you can be absolutely sure that it is thick enough to support an elephant, or a polar bear, or something else that is very heavy.
  • A crackling fire is a nice complement to hot chocolate, but be sure to keep a safety guard around it to protect your dog (and your toddler, I suppose) from the flame and soot. As intelligent as your Buster might be, I guarantee he will be as attracted to the flame as you are, but won’t have the sense not to get too close. Never leave a fire unattended!
  • As with any mammal in winter, hypothermia is a very real concern. If your dog starts shaking excessively, get him into a warm shelter ASAP, and to a vet soon after that. I have a sneaking suspicion the dogs that get hypothermia are the same ones that hate wearing coats and booties. Perhaps they should listen to their owners more often. My dog Rocco has developed the astonishing talent of shivering at will to try to coerce my family into letting him into the house. Unfortunately this talent doesn’t extend to knowing that 35 degrees in August isn’t cold enough to warrant shivering.
  • “Don’t eat yellow snow” was probably my first major lesson in life as a rural Canadian kid, but this is a new spin on an old rule. Don’t let your dog eat any snow. Of course it is difficult to prevent them from doing it all the time but always have room temperature water available to deter them. If keeping the water inside isn’t an option, then a heated water dish is a good investment. The reason you shouldn’t let your dogs eat snow is simple: its cold. In addition to contributing to hypothermia snow is pretty good at hiding dangerous chemicals, so no snow for your puppy.

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