DEALING WITH THE WINTER CHILL
Care tips for winter are dependent on the part of the country or the globe you reside in. For the purpose of this section, I’ll be considering colder climates. When weather changes take place from being cold to extremely cold, we must have a completely different approach towards how we treat our dogs or allow them to spend time outside. If residing in the northern part of the country, like us, then you are used to seeing winter temperatures getting to as low as ten figures and even going further down to negative figures on a Fahrenheit scale.
Dog Size Effects In The Cold
There are certain types of dog breeds and sizes that can be affected by the low temperatures of winter. These types of dog breeds are often large and coated with 4 ½ inches to 7 inches long hair. As for some, they possess hollow hairs that act as insulation. But as our puppies grow older (7 years and above, most live up to 9-10 years), they’ll find it difficult to withstand the winter cold like they used to while still young.
As for small sized dogs, they can withstand the low temperatures for a shorter period. Check the temperature guideline below for which small dogs can withstand various temperatures. The scale is in Fahrenheit.
- Above 60 degrees = many hours
- 50 degrees – 2-3 hours
- 40 degrees – 35-45 minutes
- 30 degrees – 15 minutes
- 25-20 degrees – 8-10 minutes
- 15-10 degrees – 3-5 minutes (max)
- Less than 10 degrees – 1-2 minutes
If the outdoor temperature stands at 10 degrees, then you little puppy goes out from a home that optimally warm, his feet pads would be at 85-100 degrees. After spending 5 minutes on a frozen ground at 10 degrees, his foot pad temperature shall have dropped to about 40 degrees. In 10 minutes, it will be about 35 degrees. And a little longer, the dog could suffer frostbite. In such a condition, if your dog doesn’t suffer frostbite, then he could develop sores, and the pads could be chapped, cracked and start to bleed. Perhaps the best way to consider the effects of the low temperature about your dog is to picture yourself outside with a light jacket and socks plus sandals only on your feet. How long can you stand the cold?
Always remember that the ratio of body size to weight, especially in the case of small sized dogs will greatly result to a faster reduction of their body temperature during a cold season than it is with the larger dogs. Due to a smaller body mass, their bodies will disperse more heat much faster. There is a weatherization fact which states that “heat seeks cold,” meaning heat attracts cold. The case applies to any heat source, whether it’s your body, a heating device in the house or your dog.
It is through this mechanism of heat leaving the body to seek cold that makes the body temperature to decrease. As such, you will see small sized dogs shivering much quicker than bigger dogs as long as all external elements are held relatively the same. The large body mass is what enables the large sized animals such as cattle, horses, elk among others to remain at an extremely cold temperature outside. The reverse logic is also true during summer. The small sized dogs will suffer more heat than the bigger dogs. Have you ever noticed that the larger dogs could lie outside in the hot sun for longer while the smaller ones will tend to avoid it for a greater part of the day? In an extremely cold weather, the small sized dogs need to be covered in a coat. It doesn’t matter whether they have short hair, as in Chihuahuas, or long haired as in Westies.
When the surface outside starts to become icy, we show concern for our safety by pouring salt, fertilizer leftovers and chemical deicers to keep the ice from forming. This makes our strides much safer while outdoors. However, all these chemicals and salts will only result to irritation on the feet pads of your dog, making the skin between his/her pads tender. The irritation may start off as a mild sore and advance to form larger bleeding cracks on the pads. The irritation may cause your dog to start licking the feet pads, which simply means they will be ingesting those chemicals.
Therefore, if taking a walk on public walkways, most probably they’ve had chemicals applied to the surface. It would be wiser to get your dog some “doggy boots.” Alternatively, you can wash his/her feet as soon as you get back home. Use shampoo and then rinse it with plenty of fresh water. You should wash up to 2 inches up. The cheapest material that can be used to counteract the slipperiness of the ice surface is a “Kitty Litter.” This is nothing much other than ground clay, which when poured on the ice surface, creates a suitable traction that won’t have side effects on your dog. This won’t destroy your concrete paths or plants. Also, it can be washed away easily with a hose or by rain. If it finds its way into the house, it can be vacuumed with ease.
However take caution not to act fancy by buying a kitty litter that has some form of a substance that creates “clumping” for the cat box. Such type of kitty litter will clump and cause a lot of mess. It can also trip you and result in injury. Just keep it simple and cheap!
Food and Water Dishes
Most of us prefer stainless steel dishes as a superior choice of dish for feeding our dogs since they are easy to clean and keep microbial activities away. However, during winter, they are not ideal for use outdoors. Any metallic material must not be used in places where the temperature falls below the freezing point. Just like it’s unpleasant to place your tongue on a really cold surface, the same applies to your dog. Even though plastic isn’t an ideal option of dish for most of us, it becomes a better option when feeding your dog outdoors. However, do note that there are dogs who are allergic to some plastic types. If you notice the black nose of your dog suddenly develops some pink patches, or sores developing on his/her nose when using a plastic dish, then replace it with stainless steel.
Allowing Your Dog To Be Out In The Cold
Whenever there is a temperature drop below 38 degrees, then you should reshuffle the time spent outside for your short-haired and small puppy. You should start preparing when the temperatures hit 40 degrees. A very common mistake most of us do is to allow our dogs to be in their yard during the potty break while it’s cold. Most of us then become preoccupied with something else and forget that our buddy has been outside for long. The best way to deal with this is to get yourself a kitchen time, set the time you want to allow your dog to be outside and keep the timer closer to you. When the timer rings, it’s time to bring your puppy in! As we proceed, all the statements made will be referring to a dog weighing 30 pounds or even less, covered with a medium hair length (Westies). As for dogs with short hair, they can be dressed in a “tube” type of sweater to make them part of this group.