Combat the Cold: As the winter weather sets in, don't forget your canine companions may need a little extra attention. Here are some easy tips to combat the cold.
Toenails: Keep an eye on your dog's toenails. When the ground is covered in snow, the surface is less abrasive and will not wear down your dog's toenails as quickly as during warmer months. Check them every two weeks and trim as needed. Frequent trimmings of small portions are better than less frequent, larger clippings.
Salt Residue: If you live where salt is used on the roads, sidewalks and other areas, examine your dog's feet after exposure and wipe them with a damp cloth to remove any salt residue. Salt will dry out your dog's pads and cause cracking.
Snow Build-Up: Snow and ice often build up between dogs' toes. It is helpful to trim any excess fur that is growing on the bottom of your dog's feet. Do not remove hair between the toes, but do remove any hair that is overlapping the pads or that is long and sticking up. This will reduce the amount of snow/ice buildup and will also improve your dog's traction on slick surfaces.
Hypothermia Concerns: Prolonged exposure to cold temperatures can result in a drop in body temperature, especially if your dog is wet. Signs of hypothermia may include intense shivering, listlessness, and a rectal temperature below 97degrees Fahrenheit. To treat, wrap your dog in a warm blanket and bring indoors. If wet, rub vigorously with dry towels until your dog is dry. You can also use warm packs (at baby bottle temperature) and place them in your dog's armpits, and on their chest and abdomen. A hair dryer may also be used. As your dog warms make sure water and food are available.
Strains and Sprains: Slipping and sliding on slick surfaces can lead to muscle sprains and strains. If you see your dog slip and then notice him/her favouring a limb, you may want to check for a pulled muscle or similar injury. Palpate the suspect area and keep an eye peeled for any reaction that may indicate an injury. If you identify a strained muscle you can treat it by alternating cold and hot packs for 20 minutes each. Muscle strains take weeks to heal properly so minimize activity during this time.
Hydration: Winter humidity levels are often lower than the warmer months, both inside and outside the home. These lower humidity levels will result in your dog losing more fluids during the normal course of activity. Keep clean, fresh water available at all times. Add water to your dog's food and encourage water consumption as much as possible.