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Cold Weather - Traveling & Outdoor Safety for Dogs
Holly Nash, DVM, MS
Hypothermia is a major concern during cold weather. Inadequate shelter, calories, or becoming wet can make a pet much more susceptible to this condition. There are additional indoor and outdoor hazards associated with cold weather. We hope this article will help you become more aware of how you can keep your dog comfortable and safe during the cold weather season.
Pets who are outside in cold weather will need extra calories to keep warm. When the temperature is below freezing, you may need to increase calories by as much as 30%, depending on the pet and housing conditions.
Shivering is a sign your pet is too cold and indicates the start of hypothermia. A shivering pet should be slowly warmed until signs of hypothermia are gone. Provide your pet with fresh, unfrozen water available at all times. Avoid stainless steel or metal bowls; instead, use heated buckets or bowls.
Walking In The Cold
Snowballs can be fun unless they are between the toes. Snow collecting between the toes of dogs can be very painful, and if large enough, obstruct blood flow to the toes. Help your pet remove these collections of snow while you are out walking. Dog boots would help eliminate this problem.
Thin ice on lakes is hazardous for people and animals. Keep your pet away from lakes or other bodies of water, which may have thin ice. In the northern United States, remember that snowmobile trails can be dangerous places. Be sure to keep your pets off of the trails. One of the most seriously injured dogs I have cared for was hit by a snowmobile. Ice on walks is not only dangerous for us two-legged creatures, but for our four-legged friends as well. Slipping on the ice is of special concern for older dogs who may already be stiff due to arthritis.
During the cold winter months, many people use space heaters and woodburning stoves. Do not allow unsupervised pets in areas with space heaters which could be bumped over by the pet. Placing 'Scat mats' on the floor may also be helpful in keeping pets away from stoves and heaters.
Boarding and Traveling
Reservations with airlines and hotels should be booked early. Be sure they know you are bringing your pet so they can advise you of any special requirements. A health check-up for your pet and up-to-date vaccinations are important. An interstate health certificate and a copy of the vaccination records may be necessary in some cases.
Pack your pet's medications and special diets where they are easily accessible. Be sure your pet has water available. Place a collar on your dog, and always have a pet identification tag attached to your dog's collar or harness. Make sure the address and phone number are current. Some pets are afraid of traveling and others may have motion sickness. See our article Car Sickness and Fear of Riding in Cars for help with these issues. If heading South, remember it will be warmer and make allowances for your pet. Protect your pet against fleas and heartworms, too. When traveling into snow country, your pet may need a sweater. Boots can help protect your pet's feet from ice, snow, and salt.
If you are traveling during the holidays, and need to leave your pet(s) at home, start to make accommodations for your pet(s) early. Many boarding facilities fill up very fast. Responsible pet sitters are a good alternative. If they are unfamiliar with your house or pet(s) have them come over and get acquainted before you leave. Wherever you may be with your pet this winter, we hope it will be a happy and beautiful season for you.
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