Winter can be a time of fun, but we need to be mindful that dogs are susceptible to the same dangers that we are. Frostbite is the most common, but hypothermia (low body temperature) can have serious effects on body functions and can result in injury and, eventually, death.
Outdoor dogs need special attention to protect them from the elements. If your dog has an outside house or igloo, be sure that it is insulated. Heating mats, special to this particular need or good straw bedding are both options that can help keep your dog warm and dry.
Dogs that live outside should be allowed and able to come inside when they want to (or you want them to). Old or sick dogs should be kept indoors whenever possible and watched closely for signs of distress. Even a dog that is used to being outside can suffer hypothermia and frostbite. Remember, if severe winter storm warnings or extreme cold weather alerts recommend that humans stay indoors, it is a good idea to bring your dog indoors, too. If your dog cannot be brought into the house, a garage, mud room or barn can provide enough shelter in some cases. WARNING: carbon monoxide poisoning can occur if dogs are left in cars with the motor running or in a garage with a running car.
The weather isn't the only danger your dog will face. Ice melts and salts, antifreeze and windshield wiper fluids can all be toxic and can cause serious complications if dogs eat or drink them. Ice melts and salts can stick to the bottom of dogs’ paws, so it is best to wash your dog’s feet after he or she has been outdoors. Methanol and ethylene glycol, the toxic ingredients in windshield wiper fluid and antifreeze, can cause permanent kidney damage and even death if ingested by a dog.
Lastly, going for walks or runs, snowball fights, etc. in the winter can be big fun, but it is best to keep dogs away from frozen water. Slips and slides can cause injury to joints and bones. Worse yet, dogs can fall through thin ice into freezing water and may suffer hypothermia or drown.
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