I have always wanted a dog that sleeps by the fireplace. I love the image of a dog lying there while I read a book and have a cup of tea – all of us snuggled up for a lovely winter day. Have I ever had that? Of course not, because I am drawn to double coated, extremely hairy, hardy winter dogs. Sitka, who is mostly Malamute, does not like to stay indoors and loves nothing more than a wonderful nap in the snow (often with our Newfoundland, Sophie, at his side).
This got me wondering – how much is too much? I think most people with short-coated dogs know it is best to keep them inside as much as possible. But what about those of us with winter dogs? What is best for them?
I came across an article by veterinarian Sophia Yin in which she interviewed Dr. Susan White of Anchorage. The piece of advice I found most helpful was how to tell whether an outside nap is okay by determining whether dogs are retaining their body heat. When a dog is curled up sleeping in the snow, if the snow doesn’t melt, they are retaining the heat well. If, however, they’re covered in ice instead of snow, that is a sign that they are losing enough body heat to melt the snow. In other words, their fur is not doing a sufficient job of providing insulation.
Snow pellets between the paw pads are also an issue. No matter what your breed of dog, wipe their paws thoroughly with a slightly damp cloth when they come inside. Not only are snow and salt uncomfortable, but they can also cause irritation if left on paws. Booties are, of course, another option.
Finally, keep your dogs away from freezing water. Dogs, like people, can develop hypothermia quickly. It doesn’t take much to get a dog to jump into a river, but it does take a lot to get them out. In my neighborhood, the fire department was recently called out twice in the same day to rescue dogs from the Des Plaines River. While both stories ended well, please do your firefighters and your pet a favor and do your best to avoid a situation where rescue would be required.
What do you do to keep your dogs safe and healthy during the winter months?