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Toller Tips: Things to Remember During Extreme Cold Weather Alerts

Parts of Canada are experiencing a major cold snap with temperatures ranging from -18C to -32C (-0.4F to -25.6F) and that’s without what the humans call windchill. But you don't have to live in Canada to experience a major cold weather alert.

No matter where you live, it’s important to practice good cold weather habits when an extreme cold weather warning alert is issued where you live.

Here’ some things your humans should keep in mind.

Make Sure Your Dog has Visible Well Marked ID Tags with Updated Contact Information. Also, make sure your dog is microchipped, and if they are microchipped make sure the information is up to date. Dogs can get so focused tracking snow smells that we get lost or turned around. By making sure your dog’s ID tags and microchip information is up to date it will increase their chances of getting back to you if they get lost.

Shorten Your Walks and Outdoor Time. Every dog reacts differently to the cold depending upon their breed, coat type, age and size. Even though your puppers may be zooming around and frolicking in the snow, they may not realize how cold they are getting. Use the human cold weather rule: “If it’s too cold for you, it’s too cold for them.”

Booties or Paw Protector Wax Help. If your dog doesn’t mind wearing dog booties and keeps them on, then make sure they wear them to go out. They can protect their paws from getting wet and freezing. If your dog doesn’t like wearing booties, then a paw protector like Mushers Secret may provide some protection. Wearing booties or a layer of protective wax can minimize snowballs and protect from sidewalk salt melt, de-icers and other chemicals that may damage your dog’s paws.

Post Walk Paw Care is Critical. Sidewalk de-icer, salt melt, antifreeze and other chemicals used by cities on roads can stick to your dog’s paws, legs and stomach (depending on the height of your dog). Dogs can lick these chemicals off their feet, legs or fur and ingest the toxins. After your walk take a few minutes to gently wash your dog’s paws with water or use pet-safe paw wipes. Also, consider using a paw balm to keep your dog’s paws from chapping and cracking.

Consider Leaving Your Dog’s Coat a Bit Longer or Hold Off on Grooming Until the Weather Warms Up. Dogs get a winter coat for a reason, to help protect them in the winter weather. While Tollers and other breeds have a double coat, leaving your dog’s winter coat shaggier helps keep us a tiny bit warmer, but it will not guarantee we won’t get hypothermia. That’s why it’s important to follow the good owner cold protection rules for your dog.

Wait to give your dog a bath until it warms up. Bathing your dog too often can strip your dog’s fur of essential oils. Also, depending on breed and coat type, it can take a long time to dry. Having a wet undercoat and then being out in the cold can contribute to hypothermia.

Dog Sweaters or Dog Coats Can Help Dogs with Short Coats. Some dogs with short coats cannot handle a drop in temperatures. That’s when a dog sweater or dog coat designed for warmth can be helpful. Just remember to wash your dog’s sweater or coat to remove any build of de-icer, sidewalk salt melt, antifreeze or other chemicals that might build up over time. Last thing you want is your dog licking any toxins off their cute dog sweater or coat.

Don’t Leave Your Dog Outside, Even If They have a Dog Shelter. During extreme cold weather warnings, dog shelters need to be winterized. However, most dog shelters are not adequately winterized. It’s best to keep your dogs indoors during cold weather.

Don’t leave your dog alone in the car. While it may seem like a safe choice, the temperature in a unheated parked car can act like a refrigerator or freezer by holding in the cold. A dog can freeze in minutes.

Know the Signs of Hypothermia in Dogs. Since us dogs sometimes get the snow zoomies and overly excited in snow and cold, we may not immediately show signs of hypothermia. Like with humans, hypothermia in animals can be deadly.

If your dog is showing signs of hypothermia, then keep them warm and get them to an animal ER or emergency veterinarian immediately.

Things than can contribute to hypothermia are:

  • Being outside in cold too long;

  • Falling in cold water, or in the case of water loving dogs playing in ice cold water for a long time;

  • Wet fur and skin from sweat, being submersed in water or just melted snow; and,

  • If your dog goes into Shock for whatever reason.

The Basic Signs of Hypothermia in Dogs are:

  • Shivering. Whether lots of shivering or a little, a shivering dog should never be ignored. If your dog is strongly shivering and then stops shivering, then pay attention. The pause in shivering does not necessarily mean they are warmer.

  • Pale gums or if their skin is pale.

  • Pupil Dilation.

  • Disorientation such as having trouble walking, acting sleepy or showing lethargy.

  • Your dog’s skin and fur is cold when you touch them. If you pet your dog, then you know the difference.

  • Your Dog is having difficulty breathing.

  • Your Dog Falls into Unconsciousness or is Non- Responsive.

While many dogs are like me and love wintry weather, it’s important for our humans to keep an eye on us. So, remember: If it’s too cold for you, it’s too cold for me.

Stay warm doggies and humans!

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