Last updated on February 12, 2015
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.
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.
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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: