Natural protection for a pet is his or her own fur coat, of course, but how do you know when your animal needs help on a bitter winter day? Does your dog really need a coat or protective gear if he or she isn’t on the Iditarod team in Alaska? Are you creating a caped crusader out of your Labrador retriever?
Baby, it is cold outside!
Most large dog breeds are well equipped for the winter months and love to be outdoors while others, like small, toy breeds, are more sensitive and have little tolerance for the cold. Small dogs, short-haired breeds, as well as puppies, older and sick dogs need extra protection in cold environments. Perhaps a pet that moves from a warmer climate also might need a coat. An animal with a thick layer of body fat has protection from the cold.
Some pets need an extra fur coat, and some clearly don’t. A hunting dog might venture into cold water — and even colder air temperatures — so sporting vests and other gear that afford a degree of heat retention, buoyancy visibility or protection are necessary.
Home Sweet Home
A cold dog shivers and shakes, much like a cold person, and no dog should be left outside without supervision or shelter. An ideal outdoor pet shelter should be elevated off the ground to prevent moisture accumulation and to keep out winter winds, sleet and snow. Shelters and water bowls should be insulated or heated.
And for kitty owners, make a note of the upcoming forecast before letting your cat out. If you are not going to be home to let your cat back into the house don’t let him or her out on a wintry day. It might be much colder tomorrow, and if kitty hasn’t come home he or she will be more at risk for developing frostbite and hypothermia.
The cold truth is…
In general, dogs have a higher body temperature than humans. The normal body temperature for a dog falls within the range of 100.5 to 102.5 degrees. Also, you cannot gauge a dog’s body temperature by touch. Frostbite can affect the tips of a pet’s ears, their tail and foot pads. Clip the fur between the toe pads to reduce the amount of snow that collects. To help protect dry, sensitive paws, try misting them with cooking spray before walking in very cold weather. Consider keeping a container of warm water and cloths by the door for use after your walks. It is good to rinse the paws before you wipe them dry because lime rock salt and calcium chloride salt can irritate the foot pads and cause vomiting and diarrhea when licked by your animal. Dunking paws in the warm water also will dissolve ice and remove mud.
Let It Snow,
Let It Snow
Upon returning home from a pet walk, wipe the snow and ice off your dog’s feet, legs and belly. Ice can form in the sensitive spaces between the toes and toe pads. Remove the ice carefully with your fingers. Apply warm, moist towels to thaw out frostbitten areas. Wiping off your dog will remove any salt, antifreeze or other harmful chemicals. Many de-icing and ice-melting products are toxic. Read the labels of any products you use and store these products in tight containers. Snow-removal products should be stored out of the reach of pets and small children as their toxicity varies. Frostbitten skin is red or gray. Contact your veterinarian as soon as possible for further care. And all pets appreciate a shoveled-out potty spot in the front yard after a large snowfall.
Do You Dress
When I look around the dog park, I discover dogs in neoprene booties, protecting them from the snow and salt on the roads. I marvel over the cute dogs in rain coats and polar fleece, some armed with paw wax to protect their pads. The way I see it, all clothing for pets is an act of caring from their owner. This shows how much we value our companion animals and the close connection we share with them.
Courtesy of PetFolio Magazine, “A World Unleashed.” PetFolio can be found free at Scolari’s, Smith’s and select Reno News & Review stands. Visit www.petfoliomagazine.com.