7 Tips to Keep Your Dog Healthy and Safe During The Winter

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There can be dangers to your dog during the winter and here are some tips that you can do to keep your dog healthy and safe during the winter.

Dogs might be able to stay warmer in the winter than us humans, but there are limits to what most dogs can tolerate. There are huskies in Alaska that can tolerate very cold temperatures and they know how to keep themselves warm. Most dog owners have domesticated dogs that wouldn’t do very well at the Iditarod. Here are some things you can do to protect your dog during the winter.

· Watch for anything that melts snow and ice. When you take your dog for a walk they can step in all kinds of things. There is rock salt and rock salt with added chemicals. There is dripping anti-freeze in the garage. There is also something fairly new they put on the roads to keep the water from freezing. It is called mag-chloride, and is a liquid sprayed on the roads. I don’t know all of the ingredients in this, but I do know it can mess up the paint on some cars and is said to corrode power lines. When you get home and park in the driveway or garage, this mag-chloride will drip off the car. Your dog can walk in this and get it on their paws. When your dog goes back in the house and lies down, they can lick their paws, ingesting these toxic chemicals. You should wipe off their paws when you get back in the house just to make sure there isn’t anything on their paws.

· Pay attention to where you put your bottles of anti-freeze. Dogs like the taste of anti-freeze and if you forget and leave it low enough, there is a chance your dog could lick the bottle. Cars can also leak anti-freeze onto the garage floor, make sure your dog doesn't lick that.

· Do not keep your dog out all night long, or all day long with cold temperatures thinking that a doghouse will keep them nice and warm. And don’t forget about the wind chill. Wind chill is what the temperature actually feels like on skin and drives down the body temperature, which can cause frostbite. An air temperature of 0 F (-18 C) and a wind of 20 mph (32 km/h) will cause a wind chill temperature of –22 F (-30 C). I once had a neighbor who kept his dogs out all night no matter what the temperature was. When it was below zero I would hear the dogs howling occasionally, which made for a hard time sleeping, knowing the dogs were probably freezing cold.

Photo by glittershake: Flickr.com

· When you let your dog go out to "go", watch them carefully if it’s cold and there is snow on the ground. The dog’s paws can freeze, making it hard for them to walk. Watch your dog and make sure they don’t start limping or act as if they are having a hard time walking. And if your dog decides to just lie down out of the blue, that is a good sign they cannot walk at that moment. Numerous times over the years I have had to carry the dog back to the patio. The dog goes out from a nice warm house with hot paws and walking in the snow with bitter temperatures causes the snow to melt and refreeze on their paws. Make sure you wear gloves or you could get frosbite.

· When you go for a walk on a nice winter day around the lake at the park, do not let your dog off the leash where they might go chasing the geese on the ice and fall through the ice. There are always stories of rescues of dogs falling through the ice. Dogs can swim well, but that cold water will cause them to freeze just like humans falling through the ice. I can’t count the number of times I have seen people just let their dogs run out onto the ice of a lake in the park, knowing that ice isn’t thick enough.

Photo by armigeress: Flickr.com

· Just like in the summer, don’t keep your dog in the car unless you can watch your car at all times. Cars get cold fast in the winter, and people do steal dogs out of cars.

· One last tip that can make your dog’s life easier during the winter:  when the snow gets fairly deep, depending on the size of your dog, you can help your dog by digging a path and a spot in your dog’s favorite spot in the yard. Also make sure your dog's water dish has fresh water and isn't a frozen block of ice.

Keeping these safety tips in mind during the winter will help your dog stay healthy, happy and safe.

© 2009 Sam Montana

Main article photo by Bill Hails: Flickr.com

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