As temperatures drop and the UK is getting ready for snow and ice, Bark Busters Home Dog Training advises dog owners to take special care to protect their dogs from winter dangers.
Beware of ice, snow and cold temperatures
Whilst many dogs with proper shelter can be safe in outside temperatures below freezing, puppies, smaller dogs and older dogs should not be left outdoors in cold temperatures. A shorthaired dog can quickly become chilled after leaving a warm house, so use a dog coat when heading outside. Always be sure your dog is wearing his identification tags and keep him on a lead. When snow falls a dog can lose the ability to follow scent and could go astray. Keep your dog on a lead whenever you are around frozen water such as frozen lakes. If your dog decides to chase birds or wildlife across the ice he could fall through to his death. Keep him safe from the roads. Icy roads make it harder for cars to stop and he could get hit. Finally, don't leave your dog in your vehicle during cold weather. A car in winter is like a refrigerator, holding in the cold and could possibly cause your dog to freeze to death.
Keep older or injured dogs inside.
Older dogs and particularly dogs with arthritis should not be left outdoors under any circumstances. Escort your dog outside for toileting. If the yard has snow or ice, use a lead since he can easily slip and hurt himself.
Watch for signs of frostbite and injury.
Frostbite causes serious damage to a dog's extremities, such as his ears, paws and tail. If you suspect your dog may be getting frostbitten, take him into a warm place right away. Soak the affected area in lukewarm water for 20 minutes and contact your veterinarian immediately. If your dog plays on ice or hard, frozen dirt, his paws are susceptible to cuts as they slide across these rough surfaces. Watch for chewing at his paws during long walks or periods of play. Always wipe your dog's feet after a walk in the snow to remove ice, snow melt and salt deposits from the road (salt irritates a dog's paws and can be toxic if ingested). Be sure to clean any ice balls from between his paw pads.
Keep an eye out for hypothermia
Watch for signs that your dog may be getting overly cold when he is outdoors. If he begins to whine or you notice extreme shivering, lethargy, or low heart rate, immediately take him into a warm place, cover him with a light blanket and call your veterinarian.
Provide a protective shelter.
If your dog stays outside in the winter, check that his kennel meets minimum safety criteria. Face the house away from the weather and put a flap on the door. Be sure the house is raised several inches off the frozen ground or concrete. Place straw or wood shavings on the floor and change the bedding daily to keep it dry. Don't use blankets, which get wet from snow and will chill your dog. The kennel should be large enough for your dog to sit and stand, but small enough so his body heat will be retained.
Supply fresh water.
Hydration is important all year-round. Use a plastic water bowl to ensure your dog's tongue does not get stuck to cold metal and change the water often to keep it from freezing.
Provide an appropriate amount of food.
A dog which is active in winter will burn more calories in the cold and needs a little more food to compensate. If he is less active in winter, avoid allowing him to gain extra weight. Decrease his food, a little and be sure to take him out for walks and playtime.
Continue to train your dog during the winter months.
Dogs that spend less time outside during the winter may become lethargic or, in some cases, hyperactive. The best way to keep your dog active or encourage him to spend excess energy is to make him think and to use his brain. Provide 10-15 minutes of training daily on basics such as sit, stay, come and walking on lead to energise the lethargic dog and tire out the hyperactive dog. Provide your dog with a treat rewarding toy such as a Kong or Buster Cube to keep him busy indoors. For a less active dog, make him work for his supper by putting the food inside his toy.