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Archive for Sunday, October 12, 2003

Dogs need to be prepared for winter

October 12, 2003

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With the leaves beginning to change colors, it won't be long before winter is upon us. As T-shirts and shorts are replaced with sweaters and slacks, don't forget Fido's winter needs. These simple tips will ensure that Man's Best Friend will be ready for Old Man Winter.

It is important to routinely check a dog's paws in the winter months as snow and salt can wreak havoc on pooch's pads. To decrease the chances of paw problems, owners should use pet-friendly salt to combat ice on their sidewalk and front step. Cold feet can be remedied by trimming the hair between the paw pads so snow doesn't become matted in the fur. There are also products available, such as Tuf-Foot, that help strengthen the pads, or owners can use dog booties to keep their dog's paws warm and out of harm's way. Tender or cracked paws can be soothed with a wonderful antiseptic ointment called Bag Balm.

Shorter-coated breeds, such as Whippets and Boston Terriers, get cold a lot quicker than other breeds. Owners of these breeds should consider purchasing a dog sweater or coat to ensure their dog stays warm on those winter walks. Longer-coated dogs should be brushed often to prevent matted fur from wet weather and to stimulate oils that keep the skin moisturized. Owners also should be aware of the areas most prone to frostbite -- the nose, paws, ears and tail.

Fresh water is essential to prevent dehydration in the winter, and it should be available at all times.

If the dog is outside for prolonged amounts of time, his water should be checked often, and a heated water bucket should be used to prevent water from freezing. It is also important to feed quality dog food -- one in which real meat is the first ingredient -- to ensure the dog is getting essential protein and nutrients needed to maintain body weight and energy level.

Although mosquitoes are sparse in colder climates, many veterinarians recommend keeping dogs on heartworm preventative year round. Winter heartworm cases have increased in the past few years, so it's better to be safe than sorry. The best way to treat heartworm is to prevent it.

It is also a good time to stock up on bones and chew toys for those especially cold days. A Kong toy filled with peanut butter or a condensed rawhide can provide hours of enjoyment for dogs suffering from cabin fever. If the dog spends most of his time outside, be sure to provide a safe structure where he can get away from the weather. Straw and hay make great, warm bedding as your dog hunkers down for those cold nights.

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