Our pets need to be sheltered from winter's nasty weather as much as we do.
Unless you have a northern dog, such as a Husky or Saint Bernard, most dogs cannot spend a lot of time outdoors comfortably. However, winter can be a fun time for both you and your dog as long as you take precautions.
Here are some tips to get you and your pup through the summer months.
There are two serious health conditions caused by cold weather. The first and less common is frostbite that begins when the dog's body gets cold. The body automatically pulls all the blood from the extremities to the center of the body to stay warm. The dog's ears, paws, or tail can get so cold that ice crystals can form in the tissue and damage it. The tricky thing to remember about frostbite is that it's not immediately obvious. The tissue doesn't show signs of damage for several days.
If you suspect your dog has frostbite, bring her into a warm environment right away. You can soak her extremities in warm water for about 20 minutes to melt the ice crystals and restore circulation. It's very important that you don't rub the frostbitten tissue, however--the ice crystals can do a lot of damage to the tissue. When your dog warms up, wrap her in blankets and take her to the veterinarian. Your veterinarian can assess the damage and treat your dog for pain or infection if necessary.
A second winter weather concern is hypothermia. This occurs when a dog spends too much time in the cold, or when dogs with poor health or circulation are exposed to cold. In mild cases, dogs will shiver and show signs of depression, lethargy, and weakness. As the condition worsens, her muscles will stiffen, her heart and breathing rates slow down, and she will not respond to stimuli.
If you notice any of these symptoms, you need to get your dog warm. Wrap her in blankets, and take her to your veterinarian who can monitor her heart rate and blood pressure and give warm fluids through an IV if necessary.
Winter is a beautiful time of year. It can be a dangerous time as well, it doesn't have to be. With a few sensible precautions, you and your dog can have a wonderful time enjoying the icicles, the snow banks, and the warm, glowing fire at the end of the day.