Dogs in winter

In the summer we worry about keeping our pets cool, come winter and it’s time to think about keeping them warm and dry. Here are some simple ways you can protect your pets this winter.

The easiest, safest way to keep your pets warm is to keep them indoors, especially overnight. Older dogs, puppies, and dogs with certain diseases such as diabetes, heart and kidney problems should never be kept outside. All cats should remain indoors.

Some dogs tolerate cold weather better than others. Some dogs can take cold better than others, such as Alaskan Malamutes and Huskies. Short -haired and toy dogs will have a particularly hard time in the cold.

Snow and ice can pose problems for dogs. Snow can get packed between dog’s toes and freeze, causing pain and discomfort. To avoid this problem, keep the hair between the toes cut short.

Keeping nails cut short also helps. Shorter nails allow for better traction. If a dog is slipping on ice it tends to splay the toes, which causes more snow to pack between them.

If you are walking your dog on sidewalks or streets that have been salted to melt ice, be sure to wash his paws when you return. The salt can be drying and irritating to the paws.

If a dog must be kept outside during the day, be sure to provide proper shelter. An oversized dog house or shed will not retain enough heat. The house should be just large enough for the dog to stand up and turn around.

Do not use blankets for bedding. These will just get wet and freeze. Clean straw or hay is preferable.

Position the house on the south or east side of the house if possible, out of the wind. Raising it up off the ground helps, too.

Remember that the dog’s water may freeze if left outside. Putting the water in a deep container helps keep it from freezing. Also plastic is a better choice in this case, as metal conducts the cold quicker. Dark colored dishes will absorb more heat than lighter ones, slowing the freezing action. Be sure to break up any ice on the surface of the water each morning.

Are you aware of the dangers of antifreeze? Ethylene glycol based antifreeze is deadly to cats and dogs! Be sure to keep containers tightly capped and out of reach. Wipe up any spills immediately. For the safest bet, use one of the alternative products made with propylene glycol instead.

Outdoor cats will look for warm spots to curl up. Some cats have learned that cars and trucks offer nice warm nooks. They will crawl up into the wheel-wells or engine compartments. Banging on the hood before you get in your car is a good idea in case you have a stowaway.

Indoors, pets will often curl up next to heaters or under wood stoves. Watch out for tails and fur getting too close to heating elements! Make sure your cat does not overheat.

Some extra vigilance may be needed if you will have a Christmas tree. Anchoring the tree to the wall is a good precaution. Tinsel can be dangerous to pets if ingested, so either don’t use it, or place it well out of reach of cats and dogs. Start hanging decorations a few feet from the bottom of the tree.

If you have a puppy, don’t leave gifts unattended under the tree. Don’t use string or dangling ribbons on packages if you have a cat. Cover the base of the tree to keep animals from drinking the water.

There is debate over the toxicity of Poinsettias. Even if they are not deadly, the sap is an irritant and will probably make the animal sick. Holly and mistletoe berries are poisonous; so keep them out of reach of pets.