How to keep dogs warm

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freezing dog
A dog without shelter to stay warm will freeze
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Pet owners should know how to keep dogs warm in cold weather

Cold weather is the number one threat to puppies. Dogs and puppies alike are at risk when they arenít warm enough. Granted, they have fur, varying amounts depending on the breed, but that doesnít give them complete protection from the elements. Older dogs are also susceptible to the cold.

How do you keep dogs warm? 

Dogs can stay outside on a day that is sunny as long as the temperature is not sub zero. However, an outdoor dog, who is accustomed to the cold, is going to tolerate low temperatures better than a dog that is used to being inside. Generally speaking, if it is less than 15 degrees Fahrenheit dogs should be brought indoors. An indicator that your dog is cold and needs warmth is shivering or refusal to play.

According to veterinarians Dr. Tom Burns and Dr. Robert Labdon of the Veterinary Associates of Cape Cod, an outdoor dog will grow a thick undercoat that is contained in his fur. This undercoat helps protect the dog from the elements as well as insulate him. On the other hand, house pets generally have thin coats.

Naturally, there are specific dogs that are more adaptable to cold climates because that is where they originated. This type of dog has a thicker coat but some also have a subcutaneous or under- the-skin layer of heavy fat, which insulates them. Dogs that are well insulated and heavy coated are Newfoundlands, shepherds and Huskies. They fair well in cold weather.

Dogs that have very short hair such as Chihuahuas, greyhounds and whippets do not do well in the cold and should not be left outside for extended periods of time because they can develop hypothermia and die. Short haired dogs should come indoors before the sun sets because the lack of sun is going to make this dog very chilly.

If a dog has to be outside, provide him with a dog house that is insulated as well as possible. Put straw and blankets inside the dog house and wrap plastic around the outside of the dog house. This helps insulate the inside and serves as a wind break. Putting bales of straw around the perimeter of the dog house also helps keep the dog warm. If the dog house is too big, the dog wonít be able to keep himself warm.

When situating the dog house, the opening should face to the southeast or to the south and a plastic flap should be installed over the opening.

Feed your outside dog about 25 percent more than you do in the warm-weather months because this helps him maintain a good body temperature. The more food that the dog eats, the better able he is to generate body warmth.

Dogs need water. The petís water bowl must be refreshed several times a day during the winter because the water will freeze and be undrinkable.

Dogs can get frostbitten on their paw pads, the tips of their tails and the tips of their ears. If this occurs, bathe the area in warm water. Do not use hot water. The animal should be seen by a vet to make sure that heís okay.

If your dog has puppies during winter months, it is imperative that you keep them warm, and preferably indoors, where they should be snuggled in towels or blankets. If you have an electric heater, you can use that to keep the whelping area warm.

Donít assume that dogs, even though they may be quite furry, can tolerate extreme cold temperatures. Err on the side of caution and invite them inside.

If you know of an animal that is being mistreated, which certainly includes being left outside in snow and freezing temperatures, report this to the ASPCA.

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