‘Tis the season for family, friends, food, and you know it folks – COLD WEATHER! Winter is ah-coming quicker than ever. In many areas, Jack Frost has already arrived with Nor’easters on the east coast and mounds of snow on the west!
Last week was the official first snowfall in Fredericton, New Brunswick. Everyone loves the first snowfall. It’s as if we forgot the long, depressing days of last winter when our pasty faces begged for summer’s arrival. It reminds me of the feeling when you saw your school on the scrolling list for a snow day. You peak through the early morning windows, press your nose against the ice-cold glass, and smile as you see the fresh powder on the ground. It’s playtime and it’s beautiful.
I don’t know who enjoys the first snowfall more, my dogs, or me. Patiently waiting for their morning potty is like children waiting to go sledding. They sit with their winter jackets on (green for Gumper, pink for Casey), inching closer and closer to the door as we dress in our winter bests.
When we finally make it outside, the dogs are taken over by their emotions. They bounce up and down on their front paws while sniffing each sections of fresh snow as if they’re hunting some mysterious snow creature. Gump decides he is going to lick the snow as much as possible. He is amazed that not only is snow fun, but a treat as well! Casey chomps right down on the snow as if she is getting an extra breakfast. Glazing up at me with a white face and cheeky smile, it is as if she has pulled a fast one. They love this time of year.
Although it is an exciting time in our household, winter weather also brings the cautionary owner out in me. As tough as snow can be on our cars, houses, skin, and boots, the cold, wet, season can be tough on our pets as well.
Just as the weather man/woman does, I have compiled a list of winter advisories, watches, and warnings to be reminded of this season. With that said, enjoy the holidays and stay warm!
WINTER ADVISORIES, WATCHES, AND WARNINGS:
1. Just like the hot summer months, the car is a dangerous place for a pet in the cold winter. As awful as those moments are before the heater is warm and the car feels like an icebox, it can literally act like a refrigerator for your pets if left alone. They may have a fur coat on, but if the weather is cold, do not leave them alone in the car. Like my summer rule, leaving the car on with some comfortable heat and locking the door is an alternative. Just be sure to always carry your spare key with you if need be.
2. Did you know that more dogs are lost during the winter months than any other time of year? Owners who let their dogs off leash during this time may run into a problem. With the addition of snow on the frozen ground, scents are much harder to pick up for dogs. Therefore, if you let your dog off leash, they might not be able to find their way back to you and become lost. During this time, allow your dogs to enjoy the pleasures of the outdoors while still safe and connected to you on their leashes. *Warning: Do not let your dog run on any type of frozen water no matter how solid it may seem. Each winter there are reports of dogs falling through ice and drowning due to lack of common sense in owners. If you’re near frozen lakes or ponds, keep your dog on leash and be safe.
3. Invest in a coat for your dog. If you’re in an area that gets a significant snowfall and cold temperatures, your dog could benefit from an extra layer on them while outside. This is especially important for dogs like mine who have short, thin coats. *Warning: Frostbite and hypothermia are threats for dogs, just like people, so be sure to be aware of the length of walks you and your dog go on.
4. If your dog will tolerate them, booties can be an awesome addition to your dog’s closet. During the winter, sidewalks and streets are covered with all kinds of snow and ice melting remedies (ie. Salt, sand, chemicals, etc.). These remedies can be great for melting, but terrible for dogs’ paws. If booties don’t work (tried and failed in my house), and you can’t avoid the de-iced areas, be sure to keep a towel and cleaning solution in your house as soon as you return. *Warning: It is important to wipe down your dogs paws and bellies to ensure they don’t lick the possible toxic materials off their feet. Also, keeping their nails clipped short during the winter is essential. Long nails will force a dog’s paws to spread out more allowing for snow to get between their pads easier, creating a bigger problem. Trim the fur between your dog’s pads if they have long hair. This can help prevent ice balls from forming, which feels like they are walking on rocks. Protective balms are available to help keep your dogs paws safe. Also, pet-friendly de-icing materials are great for your own sidewalk and driveway. You can encourage your neighbors to do the same!
5. Be aware of the effects of ANTIFREEZE. Avoid any excess dripping if you use it for your car or to winterize your pipes at home. Keep it out of reach from your pets and be careful visiting other homes or vacationing during the months it is used most. Antifreeze poisoning is one of the most common poisoning for small animals. *Warning: Symptoms include dizziness, fainting, seizures, weakness, vomiting, diarrhea, excessive urination and drinking, and rapid heartbeat. It is a good idea to keep an animal poison control phone number on hand in case this may occur.
WATCH: Older dogs and puppies can struggle during the cold winter months. If you decide to get a puppy during this time, be aware that potty training in the freezing cold may be an issue. You may want to paper-train them at home if they seem sensitive to the cold or only take them outside to go to the bathroom. Older dogs find it harder to regulate body temperature. Also, with age comes an ailment like arthritis that is worsened by cold weather. Adding a sweater to their wardrobe, or keeping them warm and indoors as much as possible may be a good idea.
All in all, these months should be as jolly for your pets as they are for you. Be sure to keep them warm and cozy by your side as you sit by the fire drinking hot cocoa. Use common sense regarding dos and don’ts during these months and be aware of your dog’s behavior and surroundings. It can be a slippery time for all of us out there, so use caution, avoid problems, allow your dogs to become snow bunnies and have fun!