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As the mercury plunges, the seasonal winter rituals begin. We break out winter clothing, weatherproof our homes, and limit our time outdoors. In addition to getting ourselves ready for winter, we shouldn’t forget our pets. Providing a safe environment for them is vital, but certain products — like dog snow boots — can also be helpful.
Some things made for winter can be very dangerous or even lethal to pets. Ice melts, salts, and antifreeze are three commonly used products that can make pets very ill.
How Dog Snow Boots Can Help
When there is ice and snow, you can expect various melting products to be on the ground. Ice melt products are typically made of salt. When your dog walks through the ice and snow, particles of salt, sand, or even ice crystals can become lodged in the webbing of his paws. Your dog may even ingest the salts by licking his paws, which can cause illness. Keep your dog’s paws healthy in winter by following these suggestions:
After each walk, wash off your dog’s feet. This will remove any ice and road salt that can cause excessive dryness.
Trim the hair between your dog’s toes to reduce the chance of collecting ice and snow crystals.
Petroleum jelly can be placed on the surface of the pads, especially prior to walking outdoors.
For serious cases, special booties made of neoprene can be used to protect the footpads.
Keep Your Dog Warm
Certain dogs are more affected by the cold than others, particularly older dogs and/or those with certain ailments, like arthritis. Be sure you have the right breed for your particular climate. You can start off by picking a breed made for bitter winters, especially if you live in colder climates and expect to be outside with a dog for a significant amount of time. Dogs good for cold climates include Alaskan malamutes, Siberian huskies and chow chows.
Regardless of breed, on really cold days, keep your dogs indoors. This is the surest way to keep your dog warm. Dogs, while they enjoy outings, are often happier indoors so they can dote on their owners.
You can also get your dogs jackets and sweaters. If your home is a little chilly, cute jackets and sweaters can keep them warm. If they are going outside with you into the snow, it’s better to choose something that has a waterproof nylon covering.
Dog snow boots are another good option. Your dog regulates his temperature through the soles of his feet (as well as his tongue, of course). When walking in the snow, dog snow boots can help keep him warm. This will also protect him from salt and other products used to melt ice.
How to Avoid Frostbite
Frostbite is injury to tissue that occurs when an animal is exposed to freezing temperatures accompanied by high winds. The primary areas that are affected in dogs include the feet, tail, and tips of the ears.
The body responds to exposure to cold temperatures by reducing blood flow to the outer parts of the body. This preserves blood flow to the vital internal organs. The diversion of blood increases the chances frostbite in the ears, tail, and toes. Without proper blood flow, these body parts are lacking in oxygen and warmth. Ice crystals can form in the body tissues, which can result in tissue death. Unfortunately, frostbite injury is not immediately apparent. It may take several days before you notice the signs of frostbite injury.
What to Watch For:
- Skin discoloration on the ears, tail, and toes
- Pain and swelling
- Sloughing of skin
- Skin ulcers
Removing the dog from the freezing environment is crucial. Re-warm the affected tissues in warm water (about 104 degrees Fahrenheit) for at least 20 minutes, but do not rub or massage the affected areas. This can cause significant damage to the frostbitten tissues. After initial treatment, call your veterinarian for treatment to prevent infection and treat for pain.
To prevent frostbite, keep your dog protected from prolonged exposure to freezing temperatures. Limit the amount of time you allow your dog outdoors. Once indoors, keep your dog warm. Pay particular attention to the ears, tail, and feet.
How to Avoid Hypothermia
Hypothermia is a medical term used to describe a body temperature that is below normal. The most common cause of hypothermia is prolonged exposure to cold environmental temperatures. If left untreated, affected animals may develop signs of frostbite or may even die.
In addition to prolonged exposure to cold weather, impaired ability to regulate body temperature can also lead to hypothermia. This is most often associated with newborn puppies and older debilitated dogs. Certain illnesses, such as hypothyroidism, and impaired behavioral responses can also be a factor in the body’s inability to maintain adequate temperature. Normal body temperature for dogs is 100.5 to 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit. Signs of hypothermia range from mild to severe, depending on the severity of the low body temperature.
Sick or hypoglycemic (low blood sugar) newborns can become markedly hypothermic in a normal environment. It is important to keep these individuals warm, and possibly even monitor their rectal temperature.
If you are suspicious that your dog may be suffering from hypothermia, contact your veterinarian at once. In the interim, use blankets and insulation to start the rewarming process.
Preventing hypothermia is key. Do not leave your dog outside in freezing temperature for any length of time without access to shelter and warmth.
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