When Fur Fails

Cold-weather tips for your dog.

With winter underway, you’ve probably spent time winterizing your home and vehicle. But have you thought about winterizing your pet?

Frosty Fur
Your dog won’t notice frostbite developing on its footpads, nose, ear tips, scrotum, and tail, so it’s up to you to keep watch. Older dogs, those with short fur, and puppies are especially susceptible. If your pooch has pale, hard skin still cold after being inside, or swollen red areas, it could mean cellular damage from frostbite. Apply warm water for at least 20 minutes area and call your veterinarian. Help prevent frostbite by trimming paw fur so balls of ice and snow can’t collect between their toes. 

Killer Wind Chill
A dog’s heat-retention system can be overwhelmed by cold temperatures, resulting in hypothermia. As the temperature dips below freezing, keep your pooch warm and dry and provide access to extra food, especially protein. Undernourishment and dehydration are the biggest risk factors for hypothermia. Symptoms include violent shivering followed by listlessness, shallow breathing, disorientation, muscle stiffness, and unconsciousness. If you think your dog has hypothermia, call your veterinarian immediately. Keep you companion indoors in a warm blanket and do not apply direct surface heat. When the temperature plunges below zero, puppies, sick pooches, and older dogs shouldn’t be outside no matter how well dressed! 

Ice-Melt Chemicals
Ice-melt and salt on sidewalks can be lethal for our pets. In addition to causing skin/pad irritation and stinging wounds, these products can cause severe problems when ingested. It’s best to either wipe their feet with a warm damp rag after a winter walk. Or, bootie up. Whenever possible, stick to dry or snow-covered areas where road salt hasn’t been used to melt ice. 

Antifreeze Peril
Watch out for pets drinking from puddles in driveways and parking lots, or walking through spilled antifreeze and then licking their paws. If you suspect exposure or notice vomiting, disorientation, or stomach bloat, call the Animal Poison Control Center at 888-426-4435 or contact your vet immediately. Rapid treatment is your pet’s best chance. 

Stay Found
More dogs are lost during the winter than in any other season. Dogs can become disorientated after exercise in freezing temperatures, and some dogs panic during snowstorms and lose visibility during shortened daylight hours. Use reflective collars, microchips, and ID tags when you hit the trail.

Sarah Lavelle, a vet at Ark Veterinary Practice, has been taking care of Gallatin Valley pets and their owners for 10 years.