When winter rolls around, many dogs enjoy spending time outside, playing in the snow and taking advantage of the brisk air. They might even prefer to stay outside more than they do being indoors, and that’s fine for cold days, but after the snow falls–or when the temperatures really drop–it’s important to take some steps to make sure your dog is safe. Winter brings several hazards and dangerous conditions, but if you know what to look for your pet will be just fine.
Here are some of the best tips on keeping your dog healthy and happy once the snow flies.
- Check your car
Cold days mean smaller dogs will want to find a way to get warm, and this could lead to them seeking shelter beneath your car, especially if the engine is warm from your last trip. If your pet spends time outside near your vehicle, always check beneath it to make sure he isn’t curled up under there. This will prevent injury or even death.
- Rearrange some things
If you use space heaters or kerosene heaters in your home, you’ll want to make sure they are well away from the areas your dog frequents, particularly his bedding, and keep them in an area where they can’t be knocked over by an eager tail or an older pet who doesn’t see very well.
And don’t forget to check outdoor storage or pool areas as well. Make sure any dangerous chemicals, oils, etc., are stored out of sniffing reach of your dog and that no spills are present in garages or storage sheds. A curious pet might wander into one of these areas to escape the cold on one of their daily outings so make sure they’ve been dog proofed. If you have a pool, make sure your cover is secure, and if possible, make sure your pet can’t get into the area at all without your supervision.
- Build a shelter and fence
If your dog is a breed that loves the snow, it’s okay to let him spend some time outside. However, it’s important to make sure he has adequate shelter to protect him from the wind and precipitation. Preferably, the shelter will be off the ground slightly to keep the cold from seeping in, will have its back to the wind, and will be filled with soft, warm blankets or other bedding.
If you’re worried about your pup escaping or wandering into the yards of your neighbors, keep him on your property by installing a fence. You can find reputable fencing companies by visiting sites like Angi and looking over evaluations from past customers. Installing a fence averages $4,500, but you may be able to save if you use cheaper materials like wood. Be sure to document any work completed as certain updates can raise your home’s long-term value.
- Watch for poisons
The coldest months can bring deadly poisons along with them in the form of antifreeze, de-icer, and salt, so it’s important to be careful when walking your dog and keep him away from driveways and the road. Stick to cleared sidewalks or take him to a nearby park instead, and as soon as you get home, clean off his feet with a warm washcloth or pet wipe.
Winter also brings holiday entertaining, so it’s important to make sure your guests know not to give your dog food from the table–especially onions or chocolate–and that your dog is in a safe place with no chance of slipping out the door as people come and go.
- Fill those bowls
Dogs who spend a lot of time outdoors in winter are at risk for hypothermia, frostbite, and dehydration. Pay close attention to your pet for signs of weakness, shivering, slowed movements, and lethargy; these could be signs of hypothermia. Take him to the vet immediately if he exhibits this behavior.
Because dogs exert a lot of energy staying warm during the coldest days, you might want to consider adding protein to his meals or giving him a little bit of extra food. It’s also important to make sure he has clean water to drink, so think about investing in a pet-safe heated bowl that will keep his water from freezing, or just bring him inside every twenty minutes or so to warm up and get a drink.
If you know you’ll be away from home for a good portion of the day–or if you need to go out of town–consider hiring a pet sitter or boarding your dog. Travel can be hard on pets, especially when the weather is cold, and flying in a plane can be dangerous in wintertime for some breeds.
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