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Outdoor dog. It’s almost a thing of the past. Many of us now welcome our dogs into every aspect of our lives and couldn’t conceive of not having them with us every moment. Think about it. When was the last time you used the restroom at home without a 4-legged audience? For those of you who do keep your dog outside, please be aware of the dangers and your responsibility to that little life to keep him or her safe as the temperatures drop.
Being blasted with winter winds and snow is not only uncomfortable; but can be dangerous. Consider the dog house you purchase. It should be insulated with a waterproof roof and weather-resistant door. You could also consider getting a heater specifically designed for dog houses. Some even cool the house in the summer months. Your dog would also be more comfortable with a heated bed or pad inside.
Make sure your dog has access to drinkable water. Heated bowls work nicely for the outdoors. Just be sure to replenish the water often.
Never leave your pet outside when the temps dip to zero or below.
Which dogs tolerate the cold better? Those with thicker fur do best at tolerating colder temps. Top breeds who can tolerate outdoor living:
Short-haired breeds such as Labradors, Weimaraners, Beagles, Greyhounds, Chihuahuas and terriers do not have the same tolerance and can become hypothermic quite easily.
Watch for signs of frostbite and hypothermia.
Frostbite occurs when the dog’s body gets cold. It pulls blood from the extremities to the core to maintain heat. The ears, tail and paws can get tissue damage if the process is not arrested. Look for signs such as pale or grey skin that may even turn hard and cold. Frostbitten skin will eventually turn black and slough off.
Hypothermia is the next level of winter weather danger. When a dog spends too much time outside in bitter cold temperatures, gets wet in cold temperatures or if a dog is in poor health or has circulation issues, hypothermia is a great risk. Signs of this condition include shivering, cold extremities, lethargy, weakness, stiffening muscles and slowing of heart rate and breathing rates possibly leading to coma. Puppies and geriatric dogs are also at higher risk, so be sure to keep a close eye on them.
If you’re headed out for a walk, you may want to think about bundling your dog up as much as you do yourself. There are lots of adorable, warm coats, jackets and sweaters available as well as shoes for protection from the salt and sand thrown out on sidewalks to prevent slipping.
Winter doesn’t have to be spent on the couch or next to the fireplace. Just be sure to be safe and protect your fur babies when you head out for your snowy adventures.