As leaves fall and temperatures drop, it is time to be sure your outdoor dog is ready for winter. Pets require more than just food and water any time of year, but winter brings its own issues. Prepare for winter with an eye to nutrition, health, shelter, and avoidance of threats and irritants.
Not all dogs should be outdoor pets. Puppies, old dogs, toy breeds, short-haired dogs, and any ill dog should not be kept outdoors. Do not keep your dog indoors by day and make him sleep outdoors at night, or vice versa; the temperature and humidity changes are not healthy for your pet. Keep vaccinations current and visit your vet immediately if there are signs of illness.
Daily nutrition and exercise are important. Always provide your dog with plenty of clean, fresh water. Consider heated water bowls to keep water from freezing if your climate is particularly harsh. Your outdoor dog requires twice as much food in winter to maintain its body weight. Continue with normal exercise to keep your pet in shape.
Outdoor shelter for your animal is a must. The shelter should be dry and protect your dog from wind. It should be large enough to allow him to move about comfortably, yet small enough to retain body heat. Residential Dog Kennels or dog houses work well when properly equipped. Insulated shelters are ideal. The floor of the kennel or house should be raised a few inches from the ground and covered with straw or cedar chips. Frequently clean any towels or blankets used as bedding to prevent the spread of ticks and fleas. The door should allow easy entrance and exit and be covered with heavy plastic or other waterproof material. Clean the area around the shelter at least twice a week in winter.
A structure is not the only type of protection your dog may need in winter. Cold temperatures and wind chill make hypothermia a threat to your pet, and exposed skin on noses, ears and paw pads are susceptible to frostbite. Dress your dog for extreme temperatures by bundling him in a sweater, especially if he is short-haired, a smaller breed, or is getting on in years.
Remove winter poisons and irritants. Antifreeze, which is necessary for cars, is deadly to pets, and its taste is attractive to many animals. Handle antifreeze carefully and immediately clean any spills and dispose of soiled paper towels or rags in pet-proof trash containers. Pets are at higher risk of salt poisoning from rock salt on sidewalks and roads that they ingest when licking their paws. The salt is not only poisonous, but is also irritating to feet and mouths. Make it a habit to wipe down your dog’s paws to remove any debris, even after short walks.
So, to keep your outdoor dog healthy in winter, provide him with a warm, dry shelter protected from wind. Monitor his food and water. And give him plenty of your attention.