“If it’s too cold for me, it’s too cold for my dog.”
This “rule of thumb” truly depends on your dog. All dogs have different coats and body temperatures! Breed, age, and health status all affect how your dog will tolerate the dropping temperatures. Dogs have body language to tell you if they are too cold: shivering, slowed movements, limping, whining, and cold ears are all ways to tell if your dog needs to head inside.
If you do feel the need to bundle up, choose to cut walks and outdoor playtime short. Remember that all dogs still need exercise even if it is too cold out. Trying some recommended indoor games will keep dogs’ minds and bodies active!
“Dogs can eat snow - it’s just frozen water!”
While ice from the freezer is fine as a summertime cool-down treat, winter snow is not nearly as pure or healthy for ingestion. Snow hides harmful salts and chemical solutions that may make your dog sick.
A nice blanket of snow also makes perfect cover for old food, trash, and animal waste that your pet can unearth. Remember to keep an eye on your dog and what he’s getting into outside, no matter the weather.
“You don’t need to clean up after your dog in the winter.”
Some dog owners go by the mantra, “out of sight, out of mind,” when it comes to picking up after their dog on wintry walks. While snow may cover up your dog’s mess, it is still there and may become a problem for other people out enjoying the snow!
Biodegradation slows down in the winter months, so waste that is not scooped will remain until the spring. Until then, bacteria are leaching into the groundwater in your yard with each snowfall and thaw. Rather than potentially spreading infection for months to come, cleaning up after your dog (even in the snow) is always the better option.
“Dogs don’t get fleas and ticks in winter.”
It is true that parasites are far more common when temperatures are warm outside, however the idea that they are ‘dead’ or ‘hibernating’ in the winter is false. Fleas and ticks look for warmth in the cold - including inside your home and in your dog’s fur! Keeping pets on preventative medication all year long will keep refuge-seeking parasites at bay.
“Dogs’ paw pads protect them from the ice and cold.”
Wrong! While paw pads do have the ability to build up calluses, the areas between their toes are extremely sensitive. Toe cracks are perfect hiding places for chunks of ice, salt, and debris from under the snow.
Fur around the feet and legs also accumulates snowballs that should not be licked off. Snowballs on the chest and legs of shorter dogs should be gently melted and dried after outdoor walks. If your dog licks the excess snow, she could ingest antifreeze, salt solutions, and chemicals used to keep the sidewalks clear and become ill.
“Dog booties and jackets are just a fashion statement.”
Booties and jackets for dogs can be useful as well as adorable. Even if you think your dog has ‘tough’ paws, booties can protect dogs of all sizes from sharp hidden debris as well as reduce the chance of absorbing harmful substances into the fur on their feet.
Petite, short-haired, senior, and young dogs may all need an extra layer of insulation when adventuring in the winter. Sweaters and jackets will keep them warm from head to tail!
“It’s okay to leave your dog in the car when it’s not summer.”
Leaving your dog in the car is unsafe any time of year! Even from inside the car, dogs can suffer from extreme outdoor temperatures. Your car acts almost as a refrigerator during the winter months when parked for a long time. Leaving your car engine on is not the best idea either - carbon monoxide inhalation poses a risk when your vehicle is left idling.
“When a dog’s nose is dry, it means he’s sick!”
This tip has been so frequently passed on, it can often be thought of as a fact. It’s not! A dry nose doesn’t necessarily mean a sick dog. Warm, dry noses could be a sign that your dog was taking a nap and simply not licking his nose. In some dogs, it could also be a sign of aging.
To be clear, a dry nose does sometimes mean that your dog is not feeling his best. Dehydration or exposure to windy, cold weather can dry up snouts. If you have concerns about your dog’s consistently dry nose, it is always best to call your veterinarian.
“Putting dog beds near heaters will keep pups cozy.”
As a responsible pet owner, you want to keep your animals warm and comfortable through the winter. Heating units pose a threat to sleeping dogs, however, since your HVAC system is working overtime to maintain temperatures. When they are hotter than usual, heating vents could burn a napping pup.
Pet beds or blankets curled up near heat sources also pose a fire risk. Keep your pets’ beds and rest areas away from fireplaces and space heaters, as well as away from drafty windows or entrances, to keep them safe and comfortable until springtime.
Now that you are up-to-date on your winter pet myths, share these misconceptions with your friends to change the perception of winter pet health needs!