Before you scoot your furry battle buddy outside on a cold day or take your four-legged security alarm for a walk through melting snow, take some precautions to make sure your friend is warm and protected. It might just save your dog’s life. Here are some essential tips from animal experts to help you keep your pup safe and healthy this winter.
Contrary to the popular expression, “He has a fur coat! He’s fine!” not all fur coats are created equal. According to Dr. Helen Vega, a veterinarian in El Paso, Texas, while larger, long-haired breeds have a thick undercoat to keep them warm, short-haired breeds do not. “They have less protection,” said Vega, adding that short-haired dogs shouldn’t be exposed to the cold for long.
TIP: Add an extra layer of warmth! A sweater or warm coat can make a big difference for a dog that can’t handle the cold.
But consider more than warmth when it comes to your dog’s fur during cold weather. To prevent drying out your pet’s coat and skin, Dr. Vega recommends limiting baths to once every two weeks or less and giving your pooch fatty acid supplements. Don’t forget to brush your pet’s coat to prevent matted fur. Most of us remember this when the weather is warm, but it’s especially important in the colder months, too. “Matted fur is a problem because it traps moisture and leads to infection,” said Dr. Vega. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) also emphasizes that a dry dog is a healthy dog. Always wipe down your pet after a play date in the snow, and be sure to check for ice crystals between the toes of the paws.
PAW PROTECTION Ice-melting products can cause dogs’ paws to crack and flake. In snowy conditions, the ASPCA suggests applying a dab of petroleum jelly to your dog’s feet before you go for a walk. When you return, immediately clean your dog’s paws, including between the toes. This will prevent the possibility of your pet licking and ingesting too much salt or harmful chemicals, such as antifreeze. “Salt toxicosis can cause neurological issues and urinary issues,” said Dr. Vega. “Antifreeze is toxic.” In addition to causing gastrointestinal problems, antifreeze can cause liver failure.
TIP: Refreshing walks shouldn’t turn disastrous, so remember to wipe down after you walk.
TRAVEL TIPS If you’re traveling or PCS-ing with your dog, consider the weather and how the colder temps can affect your pet. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, cold cars can be just as dangerous to animals as hot cars. Think about how it feels when you stay in the car without the heat running. When you stop, avoid leaving your dog in the car. Visit a pet-friendly establishment instead. If you travel by airplane with a dog in the cargo hold, remember to:
- Fly direct when possible.
- Fly during the morning through hot temperatures, and during the afternoon through cold temperatures.
- Discuss the trip with your veterinarian and the airline. Be sure to ask about how medications may impact your pet’s travel health, what to do for proper crating during cold conditions, and ask the airline how transfers will happen and what additional precautions need to be in place during this time.
TIP: Access “Air Travel Consumer Reports,” at transportation.gov to be informed on what common issues happen with dogs when they travel by air.
FINALLY, FOLLOW THIS RULE OF THUMB: If you’re cold, your dog is probably cold, too. Keep your dog dry and warm, and you’ll enjoy your family’s steadfast companion for many winters to come.