The Star-Herald

Winterizing your dog

We winterize our homes.  We winterize our cars, and we humans get out our warmer clothes, especially coats, hats and boots.  Therefore, it is important we winterize our dogs. 

Even though our winter so far has been somewhat mild, especially for December and January weather, we know that bitter cold and dangerous temperatures can be just around the corner.

Petswebmd.com offers some practical ideas on keeping our pets warm and healthy during the winter months.  

When the temperature is above freezing many dogs, especially ones with long fur, are quite comfortable outside.  Short-haired dogs will not be.  A dog’s nose, toes and ears are very vulnerable to cold weather.  It is important to keep in mind that when a dog’s coat gets wet, it loses much of its insulating ability.  If dogs are outside a lot they need a draft-free shelter, plenty of food and unfrozen water.  If it is too cold for us, then it is too cold for our four-legged friends.

When walking dogs, coats work well and booties are important for their feet if they will tolerate them.  Since it gets dark early in the day, a reflective collar on your dog is a great safety item.  Also, watch for antifreeze spills or leaks from cars.  Just a small amount can make an animal very sick.  If you suspect antifreeze poisoning, get your dog to the vet immediately.  

Winter holidays are fun for all, but it is important to keep dogs away from chocolate, plants, holly berries and leaves and tinsel, which can be extremely toxic.  

Sometimes when it is extremely stormy and cold, dogs hesitate to take potty breaks.   Who can blame them?  Make sure his usual spot is shoveled out, and he can get to it easily from the house.  Keep a watchful eye as you don’t want him wandering off in a snow storm.  

When dogs are exposed to extreme cold temperatures too long their body temperatures, which are usually between 101 and 102.5 degrees F, can drop quickly.   Hypothermia symptoms are:  violent shivering followed by listlessness, weak pulse, lethargy, muscle stiffness, problems breathing, lack of appetite, rectal temperature below 98 degrees F, coma and cardiac arrest.  It is important to get your pet into a warm room wrapped in warm blankets.  The blankets can be warmed in a few minutes in the dryer.  Try to get him to drink four teaspoons of honey or sugar in some warm water, or if he can’t drink put some corn syrup on his gums.  This will provide an instant energy boost.  Call your vet immediately. 

These and other tips are available at Pets webmd.com, which offers many helpful ideas to help you care for your animals.

Please visit the Central Aroostook Humane Society Facebook page for the latest news and available pets. Remember to be responsible — spay and neuter your pets.

Carolyn Cheney is a member of the Board of Directors of the Central Aroostook Humane Society.

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