There are few sights more heart-rending than a neglected dog that’s been left out in the cold. You can practically see the pleading in his eyes as he shivers. Sadly, many people fail to account for severe drops in temperature or just assume that their pet will be okay with all that fur for protection against the cold. Some simply keep their dog tied up outside around the clock, no matter what the weather’s like. That’s a distressing thought, considering that it’s unsafe for dogs to be exposed to the elements beginning at 40 degrees. At 20 degrees or lower, it goes from unsafe to life threatening.

As deadly as it can be to leave your dog out in the cold, it’s just one of many ways a pet can be injured during the winter. Exposure to the cold, dry skin, and substances that are highly toxic to dogs can cause serious problems. Remember that your pet is vulnerable to so many things. Being a pet owner means you have a responsibility to pay attention to your surroundings and keep your home free of hazards.

Keep them warm

A dog’s ability to withstand extreme cold varies based on breed and size. Smaller dogs, like chihuahuas, shouldn’t go out in weather that drops below 25 degrees without a sweater or covering of some kind. Owners of larger dogs should use their own discretion, bearing in mind that a rottweiler or German shepherd is at risk of exposure at around 15 degrees. People who keep their dogs in an insulated igloo-type dog house need to bear in mind that some communities require such structures to be kept off the ground and facing away from the wind.

Recently, a Chicago veterinarian spent several hours inside an insulated dog house in temperatures that dipped as low as eight degrees. In a video posted on YouTube, the veterinarian announced he had to move inside after only four hours, noting that he hoped it would serve as a warning to dog owners everywhere.

A nose for trouble

Most dogs (especially young ones) have a nose for getting into trouble. Objects and substances that smell good and pique their interest may look good enough to eat, but can prove extremely dangerous. During the winter, many people use salt to melt accumulated ice and snow on their front porch and sidewalks. These pellets get caught in a dog’s paw, where they can be licked or swallowed whole, causing extreme discomfort in his mouth and stomach. If the dry winter air has caused your pup’s paws to crack, stepping on rock salt can be agonizing. Consider buying dog “booties” or apply a balm to your dog’s pads before you go for a walk.

Be careful where you and your pet take your daily stroll. Avoid walking on iced-over ponds or creeks; you never know where the ice is too thin. It might be too shallow to threaten you, but your pooch could easily drown or suffer hypothermia. Dogs can also sustain injuries from slipping on ice, just like people. And don’t forget that antifreeze always represents a serious threat to dogs. Just a few licks can easily poison your furry friend, so be careful to keep your garage and driveway clear of leaked or spilled antifreeze.

Compassion and common sense

When cold weather sets in, take care of your dog as you would any member of your family. Bring him inside when the temperature gets too low so your pet isn’t at risk for frostbite or hypothermia. When it comes to keeping your dog out of harm’s way, compassion and common sense go a long way.

Submitted by Janice Miller