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Seven Dog Winter Dangers And How to Prevent Them

Last updated on February 12, 2015

winter dangers

Winter myths and lies are blowing across the landscape these days. Not everything you read online is true, on this we can agree. But there are some winter myths that make their way into mainstream. Myths have no place when it comes to a dog’s well being and winter safety. Dog winter dangers are rampant, but knowing how to prevent them is so simple.

Here are 7 realities to that you can count on as absolute truths. As you read along, see how many of them are surprising to you.

Dogs are NOT safe alone in a car during the winter.

Pets can freeze to death even in a short period of time. Cars act as a refrigerator in cold months. A dog alone in a car, no matter the season, is a target for thieves.

“Well it’s not summer, and my dog cannot overheat,” is an excuse I’ve been told – to my face—when trying to educate folks in a parking lot who left their dog alone while shopping. It was 2 degrees that night.

As I stood by the car waiting to talk to the person responsible, the car started and 10 minutes later the gentleman appeared. Apparently his electric car starter helped get the car warm for him well in advance. Leaving an engine on, even for a short amount of time, can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning and put your dog’s life in danger.

Said gentleman was not too happy to see me but I tried nicely to explain why it was wrong to leave his dog alone. Choice words followed but someone had to speak up for the dog. I hope he thought twice about doing it again, so at least I tried.

Solution: Don’t leave your dog alone in the car.

dog danger

Dogs Need A Coat When It’s Cold

Do you wear a coat when it is freezing out? Here’s a good rule of thumb: If it’s cold enough for you to wear a coat, it’s cold enough for a dog to wear protective apparel.

Dogs and cats get cold, particularly short-haired breeds, senior citizens, puppies, and pets with medical conditions. Look for an insulated sweater with a turtleneck, that covers the belly, and that allows for protection from neck to tip of tail.

Never force a dog to wear clothing if they are truly uncomfortable. While many dogs benefit from the additional layering in colder temperatures, try letting your dog wear the coat in the house for minutes at a time. If he or she is not responsive — or does the famous “freeze in place” pose — scratch the idea and move on.

Not all sweaters and/or dog apparel are created equally. I like to get waterproof dog clothes for my Dexter, a Cocker Spaniel, so his thicker hair can stay dry on our winter snow-covered-sidewalk jaunts. In addition, waterproof apparel keeps him dry from dew-coated bushes and grass at the park. Much like my own winter coat does for me, a polar-fleece lining gives dogs comfort while protecting against colder temperatures.

Sizing is an important factor in outerwear. Keep in mind that many stores will not allow coats to be returned, so measure your dog adequately before making any parka purchases. Here’s how: With the dog standing up, run a tape measure from the base of the dog’s neck (where the collar would sit) and to the base of the tail. The majority of dog clothes use this measurement. Knowing your dog’s chest measurement will ensure a good fit, too.

[Tweet “Never leave dogs alone in a car even in the winter. Dangers lurk!”]

A dog’s fur does not necessarily keep him warm in the winter. Consider a full-coated Poodle: He can be just as cold as a Beagle. It isn’t the length of the dog’s coat that protects him and keeps him warm; it is his undercoat that does it.

Consider that:

Dogs will be outside to relieve themselves and for short walks during the snowy season: Snow equates to a wet coat. Every half inch of fur takes about an extra hour to dry naturally. Imagine if you wore a fur coat and it was wet after being outside in a snowstorm.

A longer coat is more prone to get “snowballing” where the snow literally sticks to the fur. The same goes for mud turning into mudballs.

A wet coat retains a smell and not a pleasant one at that.

Solution: A trim in the winter is fine – just keep the dog protected with a coat. For those who have an active dog, as we do, consider a snowsuit over a sweater. We love our Hurtta snowsuit, which has served us well for a few years now and is as good as the day we bought it.

winter dogs

Fleas and ticks can and do live inside all winter long.

Fall and winter months do not eradicate fleas and ticks. In fact, last winter a hiking friend of mine found two ticks on her dog in February. Fleas and ticks will make a home beneath piles of leaves, so proceed with caution. Although fleas may not survive in brutal winter temperatures outside, the warmth of home means fleas gravitate towards indoor comfort where they can affect pets. I am a fan of non-chemical ways to prevent nasty ticks and fleas.

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A humidifier can help your pets breathe better (and help their skin)

Dry air in the home can make pets itchier, cause dry noses, upper respiratory infections, more dander, and dry throats. Consider a humidifier, talk to the veterinarian about skin conditioners and fatty acid supplements for healthy skin.

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In general, dogs should NOT gain extra weight to keep warm in the winter months

Not all dogs are created equally and not all dogs should gain weight to “stay warm.” An overweight dog is more prone to heart disease, cancers, diabetes and a host of ailments, not to mention a decrease in metabolism. Dogs should stay active with indoor games, brisk walks, and activities to stimulate their bodies and minds all year long, despite the season.

Generally speaking, dogs (and people) are more sedentary in colder weather. Packing on a few pounds is usually the result. I know I have gained a few pounds and Dex has put on at least a pound since the colder weather despite all our best efforts to keep it off.

If a dog is very active and a high performer, then talk to your dog’s vet about boosting his nutritional requirements through diet.

However, most dogs, do not benefit from additional weight gain. In general, consider that each pound of weight on a dog is the equivalent of five to seven pounds on a person. Feed as you normally would but watch the snacks and increase the indoor activity.

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Dogs Can Get Winter Blues

Winter blahs don’t just affect people: Pets get them, too! Dogs can become irritable, depressed, sleepy, and generally bored in the winter months due to lack of activity. Here are some indoor games to play with your dog. These work well for wintry or rainy days.

Dogs Should Not Live Outside: Especially in the Colder Months

If you want to know why a dog should not live outside click here.

Our friends from the ASPCA are sharing this fantastic info about winter dangers and dogs – share away.

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And here are some of our fellow pet blogger friends who, no doubt, share in our sentiment of keeping pets safe from winter’s cold:

Comments

  1. M. K. Clinton says

    All great tips for winter weather. The pet clothing industry needs a universal sizing scale that is accurate to the breed standard. I recently wrote a post about dog clothes and every comment was about how difficult it was to buy “off-the-rack.” It’s a big problem for Basset Hounds.

    • Carol Bryant says

      Agreed! I have to buy custom for Dex most times. The brands I do know that fit him I treasure. He is a 27 inch chest girth and that “ain’t” easy to find. I feel your pain. Heck, I buy off the rack and the dog has designers!

  2. Piranha Banana says

    Excellent points… thank you! We also need to mention watching for Anti freeze – both dogs and cats like it to it and while walking around the ground may bring some home on their paws. Then they lick their paws while lounging in the house. Anti Freeze has a very sweet flavor to dogs and cats but is quite deadly.

    • Carol Bryant says

      Oh so true. There are so many tips to share – we are focusing on some of the tips less often talked about. Antifreeze is a good one. We always rinse feet. Hope to see you at BlogPaws and thanks for stopping by!

  3. MyDogLikes says

    Carol, we always love your analogies. They stick with us after the fact. Our boys love being out in the cold, and always sit nicely for a towel dry afterward, but I had never considered the idea of wearing a wet fur coat inside when they come in. That sound worse than having to use a cold wet towel after a shower. I will be shopping around for a coat now. Thank you 🙂

  4. Peggy Frezon says

    I like those graphics at the end. So much good advice in your post today. I especially like the one about protecting paws from the ice. And the snow melt/rock salt. We use pet safe kind but a lot of the sidewalks where we walk are scattered with who knows what.

    • Carol Bryant says

      Thanks so much. We wear the booties since, as you said, I see neighbors and sidewalks we encounter on our winter walks with ice melt that is not pet friendly.

  5. Robin says

    There is a lot to think about when you are a pet parent! It always irks me when I see dogs (or human babies for that matter) sitting in a car in a parking lot by themselves. There really aren’t any safe times for that.

    • Carol Bryant says

      Around these parts, there was someone who left their two American Eskimo dogs in the car in the spring while he went inside a mall to shop. An hour later, he came out to the parking lot and both dogs were gone – the one window of the car was smashed.

  6. Jenny Lewis & Pixel Blue Eyes says

    Great article good tips Carol! This is such an important topic that every pet parent should take seriously. Some people though (I’m afraid to say) are more pet “owners” as they don’t treat their pets like family. My neighbor is one of them. We’ve called the law and animal control over and over for them not taking care of their dogs and leaving them out in terrible conditions…with the latest, of course, being the cold.
    Thank goodness Mommy has ALL I need and then some for me. I even have my own Yukon fur hat she just got me before my ear surgery! Can’t wear it now, but soon…
    Sending love & hugs to you & Dex,
    Pixel

  7. Jen Gabbard says

    Great tips for this often dreaded season. We’d been doing fine until this week, it’s currenly -20 below w/windchill so it’s pretty dangerous to be out for even a short period of time. I know Laika isn’t one to usually love wearing clothes but she adores her jacket in times like these. And her poor paws – sometimes I wonder if there’s enough Musher’s wax in the world to protect her delicate feet. We’ve tried boots, but it’s still hit or miss whether she feels like being cooperative when I’m putting them on her.

    • Carol Bryant says

      I can totally understand about the booties. It took Dexter a few minutes of walking like he was in glue and then he suddenly had a lightbulb moment. It is so darned cold and we have 20 below temps this morning in northeastern PA, too. Stay warm – and Musher’s Wax is a staple around here.

  8. Jordan Walker says

    Thanks for sharing this 7 dog winter danger that could harm our beloved pet. I always make sure that my dog Dexter has a comfortable and warm bed and I make sure that I don’t leave him in my car.

  9. June Myers says

    Having a 16 yr old cocker spaniel, I know how important it is to protect him in this weather.
    Great article on things that pet owners need to be aware of.

  10. Kiki says

    First of all, the photo of the two dogs in their matching snowman sweaters – cuteness explosion. With the amazing doggy fashions available out there it’s actually a pleasure to put them in coats for winter. And yeah wolves go naked in the wild, but they are adapted for their climate. My practically bald pitty truly needs a jacket if we are going to play outside for a while.
    I was not aware of the danger of carbon monoxide so am very glad to have read this post! I have been guilty of running in to get the pizza or whatnot and leaving the car on with AC blowing thinking this was perfectly safe! Thank you Carol!

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