Keeping your dog safe in the cold

- Winter is officially here and Detroit Dog Rescue kicks off their Dog Days of Winter awareness campaign with a few tips for dog care during the winter months.

Doggie Fitness & Relief - Dogs by nature love the outdoors.  They love to play, rip, run, sniff and of course take potty breaks.  However, during cold weather months pet owners need to pay more attention to the time spent outside.  Pet owners should limit their dogs' time outside to reduce exposure.  When outdoors, dress your dog with an insulated vest, sweater and doggie boots to protect their paws and core.

Nutrition & Adequate Hydrations - Dogs that spend most of their time outdoors may need more calories to maintain their energy level in cold weather.  Always check with your vet regarding all changes to your dog's diet.  It's also important to make sure your dog has adequate water outside.  Keep it fresh and in a plastic bowl (avoid metal) to prevent it from freezing - contrary to popular belief dogs cannot break ice in a water bowl and you do not want them licking ice or eating snow as a way to hydrate.  Snow and ice in an urban setting can be filled with toxins from salt and other antifreeze products that are harmful to your dog's digestive system.

If Lost Can Find  - During the winter months Detroit Dog Rescue responds to a lot of lost, homeless and stray dog calls.  A year ago a family entering the United States via the Detroit -Windsor Canada crossing at the Ambassador Bridge lost their dog when it jumped out and ran away during a boarder patrol inspection. Always keep a collar on your dog and consider having your pet identified with a microchip.  If your dog gets loose, lost or disoriented in cold weather with an ID collar and microchip you will have a fighting chance if your dog is found and can be returned home.

In The Dog House - If your dog must spend significant time outdoors, Detroit Dog Rescue encourages pet owners to provide adequate sheltering and bedding. Keeping your dog tied up to the porch, stairs, fence or a tree is not cool or humane. A good way to keep your dog secure and comfortable is in a doghouse - raised off the ground with a roof to shed away the elements.  In the doghouse make sure you keep enough straw (avoid hay) to provide a nice bedding for your dog.  Straw keeps mold and bacteria down and is a great insulator in the house.

Pet Safety & Winter Hazard - In extreme cold weather believe-it-or-not your dog can get frostbite on their paw-pads.  Prolonged contact with frozen ground surfaces such as concrete and asphalt can be dangerous for dogs.  Be aware of harmful substances such as road salt and other ice melting antifreeze products that can get lodged in between paws causing an irritation or chemical burn.  Always wipe down your dog's paws after spending time outside - this will prevent them from digesting any toxic materials when they decide to lick and clean themselves.

Don't Leave Dog in Car - You would think this warning falls into having common sense? Don't leave your dog in the car unattended for anytime during extreme weather periods - cold or hot.  Just because most dogs have fur does not mean they can stand near artic or below temperatures.  Sure some dog breeds may fair better in colder temperatures, but play it smart and safe - take Lassie with you or leave her at home!

Groom Regularly - Your pet needs a well-groomed coat to keep him properly insulated. Short or coarse-haired dogs might get extra cold so consider a sweater or a coat. Long-haired dogs should have their paw hair trimmed to ease in cleaning and snow removal.

House Warming Party - Carefully keep pets warm inside and away from drafts while inside. I live in an older home in Detroit with hardwood floors. It can get a bit drafty, so for my dog Pebbles a three-year old Bichon Frise who sleeps in a crate at night, I drape a blanket over her cage. Be aware space heaters and other supplemental heat sources can burn your pet. Keep portable heaters out of reach and make sure all fireplaces have adequate screening. And, of course, never leave your pet alone with an unattended fire.

Puppy Power - Puppies do not tolerate the cold as well as adult dogs and may be difficult to housebreak during the winter. If necessary, paper-train your puppy inside if she appears to be sensitive to the weather.

Potty Patch Area - It's wintertime and the snow is starting to pill up.  After shoveling the driveway don't forget to brush away a clear path and area to Scooby Doo's favorite potty patch. This might not be such a problem if you have a bigger sized dog. However, for smaller dogs that have to fight their way in 12 inches of Detroit snow won't be so excited to "drop chow" in the cold. Heck would you? 

Best Tip of All - keep your dogs with you at all times during the winter months.  The best prescription for the Dog Days of Winter is to keep your dog inside with you and your family.  The happiest dogs are those who are taken out frequently for walks and exercise but kept inside the rest of the time with you.  Be happy, be kind, and be humane.

Just a few simple but helpful tips from Detroit Dog Rescue to keep you and your dog happy during the dog days of winter.

Detroit Dog Rescue is a registered 501(c)3 non-profit organization whose mission is to humanely rescue homeless dogs living in Detroit and recognized at the first no-kill rescue center for dogs without a home in Detroit.

For more information on Detroit Dog Rescue or to make a donation visit online DetroitDogRescue.com.

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