Winter Health and Safety for Dogs

Written by Jan on February 8, 2017 – 12:02 pm

Samantha Randall

Dogs living in snowy climes have very different needs from my little San Diego house dogs. So Cal winters mean, at most, that a few people will swap shorts for jeans and small dogs will sometimes wear light sweaters when walking along the ocean. Here are some useful tips for real cold-weather living sent to me by a winter-dog expert.

Winter Safety for Dogs

By Samantha Randall, pet blogger and podcaster at Top Dog Tips

Winter is here, and for dog parents that means making accommodations to keep the chilly weather from nipping at our pets’ cold nose! It’s not just keeping our dogs warm that we have to worry about when winter rolls in, however. This season brings with it a whole slew of changes that we, as dog owners, must seriously consider when it comes to keeping our pets healthy, happy, and especially – safe!

I was born and raised in a rural town in the center of Maine. The winter months here can be brutal, so I would say I am a self proclaimed expert on keeping my dogs safe in the winter. Here are a few tips I want to share for pet owners concerned about keeping their canine companions safe and happy during these cold months.

Keeping in the Warmth – Clothing

Many big-dog owners scoff at the idea of dressing a dog in clothing. Often, these same people refer to clothing a dog as turning that dog into an accessory. Nevertheless, it is important to know that there is a difference between accessorizing a dog just for the cute looks, and protecting him from winter’s nasty elements.

When winter rolls around, smaller dogs, dogs with thinner fur coats, dogs bred for warmer climates, very young dogs, senior dogs, dogs with arthritis, and dogs with a compromised immune system all require additional warmth due to the cold weather.

The best way to provide warmth for a dog who spends many hours outdoors is to invest in winter wear such as a parka or windproof and waterproof vest or coat. This clothing keeps the chill-out and reduces the chance of these special dog populations from becoming ill.

Yes, just like people, dogs can catch a cold, and we don’t want that!

When is the right time to start using clothing? Use your best judgment. If you go outside and you feel like there’s no way you’re making another step without a jacket, then your dog will likely benefit from using some type of dog coat. If your pup goes outside and shows signs of being cold – shivering, reluctance to go out in the first place, or running back inside to seek warmth – then it’s also time to pull out that doggy jacket.

How is clothing a dog for winter different to accessorizing a dog? Clothing for winter is a means of protecting a dog’s health, while accessorizing is done to show off a dog as a possession, or at the very least, for the fun of it (for the owner).

Keep Your Dog Inside!

As pack animals, dogs are very sociable and require social stimulation in order to be happy and healthy. This is just one of the reasons why so many people protest the concept of “outdoor dogs”. If you have a dog that is an outside dog, however, then winter is the time to make some changes.

To keep your dog safe, healthy, and warm, you should make accommodations to bring him inside your home, according to PetMD. Whether you bring him into a heated garage, put him in a crate in your bathroom or use a baby gate to keep him in one area of the house, provide your pet with the warmth he needs. It’s crucial to get him out of the winter winds and off the icy ground.

Keeping Out the Cold – Housing

If it isn’t possible to keep your dog indoors for whatever reason, then make sure that you provide a well insulated or heated dog house that provides shelter from the cold and has a door flap to keep the interior warm. This house should also offer fresh water and food when needed.

While dog houses can provide adequate warmth during the winter months, there are still many dogs that, sadly, freeze to death during this cold season even with dog house access. The best thing that you can do for your pooch to keep out the cold during winter is to bring him inside.

Paw Health

Icy sidewalks can not only burn dog’s paws, but they can also make paws toxic through sidewalk and road salt or even anti-freeze!

The first thing to consider when walking your dog in icy weather is that ice can hurt his feet just as much as heat can. Imagine holding your hand against the ice on the sidewalk for an extended period of time – it would burn. The same thing can happen to your dog’s paw pads on extended contact with icy sidewalks, particularly if the pads are already dry and cracked.

There are two solutions to prevent this from happening – paw wax and booties. Paw wax is a protective wax that is applied directly to your dog’s paw pads to protect them from overexposure to icy conditions. Sled dog owners use paw wax to protect their teams.

The second solution, booties, is the most commonly used – mostly because few people have heard of paw wax. These types of specially designed dog booties for snow are available from most dog supply stores and come with straps to fit the shoes to your dog’s feet securely. The benefit of using dog boots is that they not only provide a grip on icy sidewalks, but they also provide some warmth too.

If you live somewhere where the sidewalks or roads have been salted, make sure that you utilize booties to protect your dog’s paws. Many types of sidewalk or road salt contain chemicals that are poisonous to your pet. This means that when your dog walks on the salt and then goes home and licks his paws, he is ingesting poison.

Booties stop this from happening, but if you use paw wax, you can remedy this problem by thoroughly washing your dog’s feet after he has been outside on the salted sidewalks.

Antifreeze is another consideration when walking your dog in winter. Found just about everywhere during winter months, antifreeze has a sweet taste that is appealing to dogs, but it is also extremely toxic. You not only have to be aware of potential antifreeze spills to stop your pup from drinking them, but you also need to be sure that your dog doesn’t step in them either.

In my opinion, dog boots are the best solution here as well, since you can remove them before stepping inside so that your dog doesn’t have a chance to lick any antifreeze remnants from his feet!

Dietary Considerations

Diet is a winter consideration that many dog owners neglect. Most dogs become much more sedentary during the winter months due to the colder temperatures and potentially dangerous weather conditions.

For dogs that are usually very active, this slump in activity can result in significant weight gain. The best way to remedy this is to talk to your dog’s veterinarian about your dog’s caloric needs. The vet will be able to recommend a healthy cut in calories to keep your pooch’s weight down while still meeting his nutritional needs.

On the other end of the spectrum are dogs that are more active in the winter. Did you know that shivering is a big calorie burner?  And bounding through deep snow burns more calories than simply strolling through the grass. Your dog will need more calories if he spends a lot of time playing in the snow. Discuss your dog’s cold weather activity level with your vet in order to plan the right winter diet.

***  Samantha Randall is a professional writer and animal lover based in Bradford, ME. I’m the Editor-in-Chief at Top Dog Tips, where I research and write about all things dog. I have three of my own dogs, a boxer named Chloe, a Beagle mix named Molly and a chocolate Labrador named Saddie. My dogs and I love enjoy hiking, swimming and exploring. As with most dog owners, my main goal is to always keep my girls healthy and happy.

Related Articles

Heartworms: Are you wasting money on medication during cold weather?

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Pet Food Giant Buys Another Chain of Vet Clinics

Written by Jan on January 9, 2017 – 2:16 pm

spaniel-and-shot-and-bewarePet food giant Mars Inc., which owns the chain of Banfield Pet Clinics, has now purchased the VCA chain of animal hospitals. Reportedly, VCA also has ambitions to take over small pet clinics: “A letter mailed this spring to 2,000 proprietors of small veterinary clinics invited them to consider merging with a neighboring hospital run by VCA Inc., the largest owner of freestanding veterinary hospitals in the United States.”

In 2013, Dr. John Robb contacted me when he lost his Banfield franchise. He said it was because Banfield claimed he had violated its vaccine protocols and had broken Connecticut law by giving half-dose vaccines to his clients’ small-breed dogs. Dr. Robb admitted that he had (and I applauded him). He believed, and had evidence to prove, that small breed dogs were particularly susceptible to vaccine reactions. Finally, his crusade is making big news. Please read Why Big Business is Putting Your Dog’s Health at Risk, published in the respected business publication: Bloomberg/BusinessWeek.

Ironically, Banfield furnished the data for a 2005 Purdue veterinary school study of vaccine reactions in 1.5 million small-breed dogs. Banfield’s own data showed that small-breed dogs receiving multiple vaccines in one visit (a common practice) had a 27% increased risk of an adverse reaction for each additional vaccine. One “shot” can contain as many 5 or 6 vaccines. Add a Bordetella “booster” and maybe Leptospira and you can double the chance of an adverse reaction. Reactions can range from fever to seizures to death. (Learn more about safer vaccinating with my article on Questions to Ask Before Vaccinating.)

Dr. Jean Dodds subsequently conducted a pilot study to prove that a half-dose was sufficient for a small-breed dog. Numerous vets have told me that they regularly give half doses to small-breed dog. It makes no sense that a Great Dane and a Chihuahua would get the same dose.

Please spread the word about this. We may wake up in the very near future with Mars (makers of Pedigree, Cesar, Iams, etc.) owning most of the veterinary clinics. Who will advocate for your dog when the vet who treats the vaccine reaction has corporate ties to the vet who vaccinated your dog?

 

 

 

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Holistic Halloween Reminders for Pet Lovers

Written by Jan on October 27, 2016 – 2:10 pm

Welcome to the annual updating of my dog Chiclet’s Halloween holistic safety tips. Chiclet is the co-author (with me) of Scared Poopless: The Straight Scoop on Dog Care, our recently updated e-book version, a 5-Star Amazon bestseller.)  

Hi everyone. It’s Chicletpumpkin 2_edited-1 T. Dog writing to you from a patch of miniature pumpkins. You probably didn’t recognize me at first because I’m so cleverly disguised as a sorceress.

Halloween can be a very dangerous and stressful time for critters. Here are my seven favorite ways to help protect dogs and cats from ghosts, goblins and things that go bump in the night. I hope you’ll forward them to friends and family so everyone can stay safe. Read more »

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Side Effects from Your Dog’s Rabies Vaccine

Written by Jan on October 26, 2016 – 12:36 pm

 Veterinarian W. Jean Dodds, world-renowned rabies vaccination expert and co-Founder of the Rabies Challenge Fund study of the rabies vaccine, wrote an important article on rabies vaccine side effects. Read this summary or the whole journal article. Color emphasis is mine.

Rabies Virus Protection Issues and Therapy, W. Jean Dodds, Global Vaccines & Immunology Vol1(3) 51-54 2016, ISSN: 2397-575X  http://oatext.com/pdf/GVI-1-115.pdf

Although killed or inactivated products make up about 15% of the veterinary biologicals used, they have been associated with 85% of the post-vaccination reactions, mainly because of the acute adverse responses induced by the adjuvants used in companion animal…species.” [Note from Jan: adjuvants are “boosting” chemicals like aluminum.]

Killed virus vaccines like those for rabies virus…can trigger immediate and delayed adverse vaccine reactions.  While there may be immediate hypersensitivity reactions, other acute events tend to occur 24-72 hours or up to a week afterwards, and as long as 45 days later in the case of more delayed reactions.  Documented reactions in the above citations include:  behavioral aggression and separation anxiety, destruction and shredding of clothing and bedding; obsessive behavior, barking, fearfulness, self-mutilation, tail chewing; pica, with eating wood, stones, earth, and feces; seizures and epilepsy; fibrosarcomas at the injection site; and autoimmune diseases such as those affecting bone marrow and blood cells, joints, eyes, skin, kidney, liver, bowel, and CNS [central nervous system].

..rabies vaccines are the most common group of AE [adverse events] reported to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Center for Veterinary Biologics (CVB). ”

Related links

RabiesChallengeFund.org   Please donate to this study funded with contributions from people like you.
Rabies Vaccination: 13 Ways to Vaccinate More Safely
What to Do When Your Dog Has a Vaccine Reaction
Does Your State Permit Rabies Vaccination Medical Exemptions?
Rabies Vaccination: Caution! The Devil is in the Details
Vaccinating Unhealthy Pets: Beware Reactions & Vaccine Failure
Vaccinating Dogs: 10 Steps to Eliminating Unnecessary Shots
Vaccinating Small Dogs: Risks Vets Aren’t Revealing

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Take Our Tear Stain Survey

Written by Jan on August 31, 2016 – 7:36 am

mullie-with-URLMost people believe tear and beard staining are inevitable in some breeds: Maltese, Bichon, Poodle, Shih Tzu, Chihuahua and many others. But they’re not.

While researching various aspects of holistic dog health care for my book, Scared Poopless, I stumbled upon the “cure” for the tear staining of my first two Maltese. I was able to quickly resolve the staining of my next two little guys as well. I fancied myself quite the Tear Stain Guru, that is, until I adopted Mulligan (shown left). Mulligan’s staining actually worsened in my care and resisted all efforts to control it for more than 18 months. Mulligan is now 95% stain free — and much healthier.

Tear staining in rats, hamsters, cats and even pigs has been studied by scientists, but not in dogs. No one knows the exact mechanism causing staining. Most veterinarians see it as a cosmetic problem and don’t give it much thought. People selling remedies think they know what’s happening (but mostly don’t) and truly bizarre Internet myths abound.

As long as there’s money to be made selling untested tear stain “remedies,” research will not likely be undertaken. But promoting long-term antibiotic use to stop staining — while underlying causes go untreated — disturbs me so much that I’m trying to gather hard data on causes and cures. This not a problem of too many tears; it’s a health or lifestyle problem. I’m writing a book on the subject.

2,526 people have taken my in-depth questionnaire. I’m analyzing data now and will start writing my book. Follow us on Twitter or Facebook and get updates and sneak peeks. Tell us what you know there or here. It’s time to end this problem once and for all.

Related post: Dog Tear Stains: Everything You’ve Been Told is Wrong


Do you have a great photo of your dog’s tear or beard staining? Make your dog famous as a canine health advocate. Donate it to the book at stopstains at gmail.com.

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