The winter and extreme cold temperatures bring some unique challenges to our pets. Just because our furry friends are...furry, doesn't mean we don't need to protect them from frigid weather conditions. When the temperature drops we need to be aware of signs that they may be suffering the effects of the change in temperature.
Chapped skin: Even with fur, there are parts of your dog's body that can get chapped from the wind and cold. A common area is the top of their nose. A wet nose out in the cold wind will become dry and flaky over time. Protect your dog's nose with a layer of petroleum jelly when venturing out in cold or daily as a preventative measure.
Cracked Paw Pads: Walking on frozen streets and chemical ice melt can irritate your pup's paw pads and cause soreness and cracking. A thin layer of petroleum jelly before going out in the cold will protect the bottom of your dog's feet. If you notice cracking and bleeding on the pads The American Red Cross recommends washing the affected paw with a saline wash (1 teaspoon of salt to 1 quart of warm water). If severely cracked and bleeding, bandage and consult your veterinarian.
Hypothermia: Limit your dog's outdoor time during extreme cold temperatures. Extended exposure to frigid conditions could lead to hypothermia. Hypothermia occurs when your dog's body temperature drops to dangerously low levels. Symptoms include: disorientation, uncontrolled shivering, and dilated pupils. If you suspect your dog is suffering from hypothermia take your dog to a warm place, wrap in a warm blanket, and call your veterinarian immediately.
Frostbite: Frostbite is the freezing of body tissue. Especially vulnerable areas on your dog are ears, tail, and paw pads. When temperatures drop below 0 degrees, frostbite can occur in less than 10 minutes. After a period of time outdoors in below freezing temperatures be sure to check your dog's skin for signs of frostbite. Skin that appears blue or pale skin could be affected. If you suspect frostbite, get your dog to a inside area, wrap the affected area in a warm (not hot) compress and call your veterinarian.
Prevention is the best to avoid injury from the cold. When the temperature outside drops to dangerously low levels, limit the time your dog stays outside. Make more frequent short walks to outdoor play times to limit extreme cold exposure. Puppies, short haired, and elderly dogs would benefit from a sweater or jacket. Dog clothing is not only for fashion but can be functional as well.