Wintertime Hazards for Canines
To make enough energy to stay warm, outdoor dogs burn 50 percent more calories in the winter so they can make enough energy to stay warm. Their food must be increased accordingly. Normal rectal temperature for a dog is 100-102F, classically 101.5F is the average.
* Temperatures below 20F are too cold for most dogs. Cold weather can cause frostbite and sub-normal body temperature called hypothermia. The areas most susceptible to frostbite are the extremities. The nose, toes, ear tips, and tail.
* Frostbitten tissues turn a grayish-white color and require gradual rewarming. Don’t rub or irritate the areas. Give a lukewarm bath and offer warm fluids like chicken broth.
* Areas of skin on the extremities become discolored then become red and swollen.
* Hair loss may result.
* All dogs are at risk from antifreeze poisoning, which can prove fatal. Antifreeze poisoning is a major wintertime hazard in the cold north. Ethylene glycol is the active ingredient, and has a sweet taste. Less than two tablespoons kills a 10-lb dog. Signs include depression, incoordination, vomiting, and seizures. You must catch this within the first two hours for treatment to be effective. If you are changing your own antifreeze, be sure to clean up any spills promptly and store the rest in a sealed container. Currently a new type of antifreeze called “Sierra” is available. Its active ingredient is propylene glycol, which is much safer for your dog, and still works for your car.
* Salt and de-icing chemicals are irritating to your dog’s feet. Keep a spritzer bottle by your front door and spray feet with water when your dog comes inside, then dry his feet off to prevent irritation.
(NOTE: Wrapping cold dogs in a heat-retaining blanket helps warm them up.)