Needless to say, it has been cold lately. Our pets require special attention and care during this cold weather. Hopefully, they are in the house with us during the night and during the day if it is particularly cold. Many dogs like to be outside on sunny days, but they need a place up off the cold ground.
Dog's bodies and coats adapt to changing weather. A short-coated dog will grow a thicker coat if he lives in a cold climate and is outside a lot. Many long-haired dogs have an undercoat and an outer coat to keep them warm in the cold. (This double coat also keeps them cool in the hot summer if they are brushed regularly so the coat does not mat.)
Sled dogs are good examples of this. They sleep outside on the ice and snow and stay pretty comfortable. They would really suffer if they were to come into a heated house. Once they come inside, they lose the ability to stay warm outside in extreme temperatures. Consistency is the key.
Short-coated dogs are not meant to live outside unless extremely protected quarters are available to them. They need to be able to get up off the ground and out of the wind, as well as having nice dry bedding.
Lots of folks love to dress their pets up in fancy outdoor wear. Some dogs love it and others hate it.
There was an interview on public radio recently with a veterinarian about the need for coats and boots. Many breeds were mentioned and she felt that most of them were better off without the coats.
She said that boots might be necessary if you must walk where irritating salt and other products are put on the roads and sidewalks during icy weather. These products can be very irritating to the feet and if the dog licks his feet, he will ingest it. Some of it can be toxic.
If you use boots all the time, your dog's feet are not getting toughened up like they would if they went barefoot. A dog who continually walks on warm, cold or rough surfaces will build up tough pads making them quite resistant to most all surfaces. They will let you know when the surface is uncomfortable.
The one surface that can really be painful to dogs is the burning blacktop parking lots in the Valley in the summer. Other than that, my dogs have never shown foot discomfort unless they get a sticker on or wedged between the pads.
Diet is particularly important in cold weather, particularly for those dogs who spend a fair amount of time outside. They need a high quality dog food with a good protein source and higher fat -- a quality fat source like chicken fat, to keep them warm from the inside out. On those cold days, add a little of your hot oatmeal to your dog's food. He will appreciate it.
But back to coats, fancy wardrobes for dogs are available everywhere these days, and they come with fancy price tags. I was at an event recently where a gal bought a designer outfit for her small dog and then bought herself a purse to match.
I did wonder how often she goes out for walks with her dog and carries her purse. Some of these outfits are designed for show, not warmth.
But if you put a wool coat on your dog when it is 30 degrees outside, you will have to put it on all the time when it is 30 or colder. One day on and one day off will really mess up his internal thermostat. Once again, consistency is key.
The veterinarian on the radio program included all the pampered little lap dogs among those who might need coats during cold days. Most other dogs she said were better off relying on their own coats.
Incidentally, water dishes quickly freeze during these cold nights and do not melt in the morning.
Remember to provide fresh water every morning, both inside and outside.
Don't forget to sign up for the Pet First aid and CPR course being offered through Payson Parks on Feb. 24.
Call Holly at (929) 474-5242, for more information.
And ask her about the twice-weekly walks in preparation for the Walk a Hound, Lose a Pound 5K walk on March 31.
Incidentally, no matter how cold it is, a healthy dog will benefit from a brisk walk.
The walker will benefit as well.