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Winter safety for your dogs

Posted January 16, 2013 in Advice Column, Downtown

Brrr, it is cold outside! Winter has definitely arrived in Iowa. It can be a “ruff” time of year for your pet, so there are many precautions you can take to ensure your pooch stays warm and safe. Here are some tips to get through the winter season.

•    More dogs are lost during the winter than any other season.  Dogs can lose their scent and get lost easily. Always keep your dog on a leash during a snowstorm and make sure he is wearing his ID tags.

•    Always wipe down your pup’s paws, legs and belly after being out in the snow. Dogs can collect salt and other dangerous chemicals on their paws and coat. It can not only irritate skin but also be ingested while licking.

•    Never leave your dog in a car during cold weather. Vehicles act like a cooler in the winter and hold in the cold temperatures.

•    Do not leave your dog outside for extended periods of time. All dogs are susceptible to hypothermia and frostbite, and some breeds are at greater risk. Hypothermia is when a dog’s body temperature drops too low for the body to function properly.  Symptoms include shaking, shivering, pale gums, slow heart rate and shallow breathing. It can be fatal if not treated immediately. Frostbite is the result of exposure to freezing or subfreezing temperatures. Frostbitten tissue may appear gray or pale. It will be cold to the touch and hard. The area might become red as it warms up. It is important to have your dog assessed by your veterinarian if you suspect frostbite.

•    Never shave your pooch’s coat down to the skin during the winter. Your dog needs his coat to keep properly insulated. Short-haired dogs may get cold easier so put a sweater or coat on them while outside. Long-haired dogs have excess hair around the nails and paws. so keep them trimmed to ease snow and ice removal.

•    Shelter is extremely important. Keep your dog warm, dry and away from drafts. Tile and hardwood floor may become extremely cold, so make sure to put down blankets and pads on these areas.

•    Be cautious if you walk or play with your dog near frozen rivers, ponds or lakes. Your dog could slip or break through the ice and get seriously injured.

•    Feed your dog extra calories if he spends ample time outdoors. It takes more energy in the winter to regulate body temperatures so additional calories are essential.

Follow these tips and winter can be a “furtastic” season to enjoy time with your pooch.

Information provided by Carrie Bonnett, owner, Downtown Doggy Daycare, 724 Scott St, Des Moines, 288-0957.

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