Is your dog a snow bunny who can’t wait for you to let them outside for a romp and a roll in the snow, or a snuggle bunny who gives you a look that says, “you’ve got to be kidding me,” when you open the door? Either way, keep these tips in mind for a safe and happy winter. Stay warm everyone!
If your dog decides to go on a spontaneous adventure in the winter wonderland without you, it can be extra hard for them to find their way home. The beautiful blanket of snow, even if it’s just a coating, can obscure visual cues that help guide them home. Additionally, ice and snow drastically weaken their ability to pick up on scents. Fatigue and anxiety induced by the cold and confusion just make matters worse. I hate to think of the sheer panic felt by the owner when a dog runs away, but it does happen. So let’s talk about what we can do.
Just in case:
Be prepared. Does your dog have free rein of the yard to run and play as they please? Lucky pup! Take precautions to make sure your yard is secured, whether that means double checking gates, or doing training refreshers. Make sure your family and visitors are on the same page and understand the importance of following your rules. If your dog is an escape artist, remember to keep snow piles away from fences because they can provide easy routes. Worried that your dog might slip their collar while on leash? Stop into the Lodge. We are more than happy to guide you to no-slip collars, harnesses, or a combination of both to keep your dog safe. Bring your dog with you and we will adjust them so that they fit perfectly.
If your pup does wander, having tags, and most importantly making sure your dog is wearing them significantly improves your chances of a swift reunion. Make sure all the information on the tags is correct and up-to-date. While tags can fall off, a Microchip is a reliable way to help identify a lost dog. Whether your dog was microchipped by a rescue or by your vet, you should have received an accompanying registration form. Did you ever log in and make sure that the information is complete and correct? Take a minute to look into it. Is your dog NOT microchipped? Microchipping is a simple procedure that requires no anesthesia. It’s on par with receiving a vaccination and can easily be done by your vet at a regular appointment for under $50. It’s absolutely worth increasing the odds of finding your dog if they flee.
Just like humans, dogs respond differently to the cold. Dogs’ coats, fat stores, activity level, age, and personality all determine how well equipped they are for cold weather. Dogs in ill health, especially those that have arthritis which can be exacerbated by wet and cold conditions as well as the difficulty of balancing and walking on ice and snow, have a harder time tolerating the cold. Certain conditions like diabetes, heart and kidney disease, and diseases that cause hormonal imbalance can affect a dog’s ability to regulate their body temperature. Whining, shivering, anxiousness, fatigue and burrowing are all signs that it’s time to go inside. Sweaters and coats can help to extend the length of time your dog enjoys being outside. If you have any questions about your dog’s cold tolerance and how it may be affected by any condition, don’t hesitate to ask your veterinarian.
In this frigid weather, if you see a dog that is being kept outside for too long speak up! Libre’s Law was enacted this year and has increased penalties in animal neglect cases. As you just read above, cold tolerance varies by dog. Some dogs love being outside in the snow and thrive in the cold for a long period of time. Use your best judgement. If you feel comfortable and safe checking with the owner, do so. If you don’t or feel like a pet’s needs continually aren’t being met, document the date, time, exact location and photographic/video evidence if possible. Contact local law enforcement and animal control, repeatedly if need be. There are more cases of animals being left outside in dangerous weather like frigid temperatures reported and investigated than any other form of abuse. Don’t simply do nothing because you fear that you won’t see results.
One last easy and important thing you can do to keep your pooch safe in winter is to wipe down or wash off their paws, legs, and belly after walks. Dogs will likely pick up rock salt and may come in contact with other chemicals like antifreeze during their outing.
When your pup warms up inside, rock salt can burn their paw pads and can cause ulcers and cracks that become infected easily. They may also lick the salt off their feet and suffer similar consequences to their mouth and digestive tract. It only takes a moment to keep your dog safe and save both of you from a vet visit. In my home, we use a little tub of water and towel at the door in our mud room, but if your dog is small enough you can just carry them to a tub or sink. Baby or pet wipes are also an easy tool for the job. Using a pet friendly ice melt not only will keep your and other dogs safer, but your concrete/brick/stone surfaces, landscaping, children, and the environment will thank you as well. We carry grooming supplies like pet wipes, soothing paw lotion, and pet friendly ice melt at Cold Nose Lodge. Stop by to pick some up!
Booties are also great way to keep salt and chemicals from touching your pup’s feet in the first place. Some dogs take to booties right away while others dogs face a short adjustment period. If your dog seems to be walking funny at first, don’t give up. Most dogs get the hang of the booties after a few tries and we won’t blame you if you laugh in the meantime.