Ask the Vet: Helping your pet cope with weather extremes
Dr. Amanda Bruce
Extremes in weather, hot or cold, call for extra measures to ensure the safety of our pets. We certainly have seen our share of cold and snowy extremes this winter, raising questions about what we can do as pet owners to help our animals, particularly dogs, who venture outside most.
Many factors determine how long a dog can be outside comfortably, but here are some universal tips to help keep them safe as temperatures plunge:
Bundle up. Booties and sweaters aren’t just for lap dogs. Ice and snow can damage the paws of any dog, regardless of size or breed. Booties provide protection and insulation for sensitive feet. Likewise, a sweater or jacket provides extra insulation, particularly for short-coated and lean dogs.
Check legs and feet. Ice can be sharp and abrasive, leading to cuts and irritation. Snow can pack in the hair between paw pads and in long hair on the legs. Keeping the hair between toes trimmed short in the winter can help prevent ice balls from forming between toes. Products used for melting ice also can be abrasive to pads and irritate the skin. Get into the habit of wiping down your pet when he comes in, and don’t forget to inspect paws regularly for signs of irritation.
Clear a path. Trudging through deep snow can lead to strains and sprains, particularly for elderly and arthritic animals. Also be aware of icy areas, such as stairs, that can be hard to safely navigate. Try to keep a path shoveled in the yard to make those necessary breaks outside easier.
Monitor outside breaks. Cold weather often leads to a loss of potty training habits and an increase in indoor accidents. It’s easy to open the door, let the dog out and come back several minutes later to let her in. But many dogs are extra sensitive to the cold and may not carry out their normal potty routines when let out. They’ll stand by the door waiting to come back in rather than venture into the snow. It may be necessary to bundle yourself up and accompany your dog outside to make sure she isn’t just holding it until she gets back inside.
Play it safe. If it’s so cold that you are turned off by the idea of spending time outside, then your pet probably shouldn’t spend extended periods outside either.
With proper planning, winter can be an enjoyable time to be a dog owner. There’s no reason not to bundle up and enjoy cold-weather activities with your dog on mild days. But owners are wise to take precautions to increase comfort and safety when unseasonably cold conditions set in.
Dr. Amanda Bruce of Superior is owner of PetCare of Duluth, 2701 W. Superior St., Suite 102. You can reach her at drbruce@PetCareofDuluth.com or 218-461-4400. For more information, visit PetCareofDuluth.com.