KEEP YOUR GREYHOUND SAFE THIS WINTER
With the polar vortex crushing much of North America, it seems like a good time to review winter’s hazards. Snow, sleet, ice, and wind… there’s a lot to prepare for when it comes to winter weather. Just like we’re affected by the cold, our dogs are, too. But there certain dangers that dog owners need to be aware of to keep their dogs safe. Here are a few simple measures you can take to make sure your Greyhound stays happy and healthy throughout the winter.
LIMIT TIME OUTSIDE
In general, when the temperature dips below freezing, limit your dog’s outdoor activity to 5 to 10 minutes, max. When outside, keep the following in mind: If you need a coat, so does your houndie. If your dog clearly does not like the cold, bring him in immediately. Dogs can suffer from frostbite, especially on delicate earflaps and tail tips. Watch closely for signs of distress like shivering, lethargy, disorientation, or whining. Just like you, your dog can suffer from hypothermia and frostbite. If it’s sloppy outside, when you come in, be sure to wipe down your pup, drying them off as needed.
Dressing your dog for cold weather is not a fashion statement; it’s a necessity. Greyhounds have low body fat, so generally they appreciate a bit of winter layering. So err on the warm side and buy your dog a cozy, water-resistant coat or sweater. If you think your dog needs an extra layer, make sure it fits them properly, doesn’t have any dangling, chew-off-able trinkets (especially if it’s something they’re going to wear all the time), and keep an eye on them the first time they wear it. You want to make sure they’re not going to get it caught somewhere and hurt themselves.
When you come in from outside, wipe their paws too in case they came into contact with antifreeze or road salt/chemicals. You don’t want them licking that off later. Be sure there is no snow/ice caked up between the pads, and check those pads for cracking. You may need some paw balm like Musher’s Secret.
Booties can help keep pets' feet warm—and prevent mud from tracking indoors. Dogs benefit tremendously from wearing waterproof boots during harsh weather. Not only can they help prevent contact with antifreeze and salt, but also protect foot pads from ice and sharp objects hidden in the snow. It’s important that the booties fit well so your dog feels confident and steady on his feet. See note about senior dogs below.
BEWARE OF ANTIFREEZE AND SALT
In extra-snowy or icy climates, salt and antifreeze are common elements of winter. These may help make sidewalks less icy, but they can absolutely be dangerous to pets. Antifreeze attracts dogs because it is very sweet to taste, but it is extremely poisonous and can cause serious illness or death when ingested. Be sure to clean up any antifreeze that spills in your garage, and keep the bottle somewhere your pets cannot access. Salt and other de-icing chemicals can cause skin irritations and if ingested, can damage internal organs. Even so-called “pet safe” salt is not good for dogs. See below for a safe ice melt solution you can DIY.
REFLECTIVE COLLAR AND LEASH
Due to Daylight Savings Time, you may be walking your dog at dusk or in the dark. Keep yourself and your dog safe by wearing reflective gear (clothing, leash, collar, etc) and keeping your dog close when walking on the street. In case you are separated from your dog, make sure his collar has up-to-date contact information and he is microchipped.
When walking your dog, be sure to avoid frozen lakes and ponds. Your dog could be seriously hurt or even killed if the ice breaks. It might look like fun to slide across that frozen pond, but ice can easily crack, and your dog — and you — could fall in. If he does fall through, call 9-1-1 rather than trying to rescue him yourself. Slipping on ice can also lead to muscle strains and other injuries. Ice can be especially hazardous for an older dog who’s a bit unsteady on his feet.
DON’T LEAVE THEM IN THE CAR
Don’t leave pets in the car: Just as your vehicle traps heat in the summer, it can stay cold on a winter day, even if the sun is shining, making it feel like a refrigerator for your pup. Dogs left in a cold car for too long can freeze to death. Safer to just leave them at home.
SAFEGUARD FIREPLACES AND HEATERS
Your home may require space heaters to maintain a comfortable temperature. Or perhaps you use wall heaters, baseboards, or a fireplace for your heating needs. This can be especially dangerous for your dog. A dog will gravitate to the warmth and these sources of heat can present a burn hazard. Get a cover for the baseboard heaters to prevent your dog from brushing against them. Some wall heaters are safe to be touched without getting burned, but make sure to check. Move the space heaters to a place where your dog can’t get to them. Consider putting a safety gate around your fireplace to keep your dog away.
Avoid electrically heated blankets and pads or beds, particularly if your dog is very young or very old. Older hounds may not be able to sense that it’s getting uncomfortable, or may not be able to move themselves off that heating pad if they get too hot.
Pay attention to your Greyhound’s activity level. Like us, if they are less active, they need fewer calories to maintain their ideal weight. That means you’ll want to watch your dog’s eating habits and make sure he doesn’t start gaining weight. Less exercise means less food. Packing on some extra pounds is hard on the joints and can lead to health issues. Maybe just skip a few treats if you want to cut back.
Think the hot summer months are the only time your pooch can suffer from dehydration? Think again! Since you’re heating your home through artificial means, your dog can still get dehydrated during the winter months. So, remember to give your dog plenty of fresh water. If they have excessive thirst, make sure they are not licking salt off paws or somewhere outside.
MONITOR SENIOR DOGS
Older dogs, those with medical conditions, and dogs on medication all need special attention during the cold months. Conditions like arthritis, hip dysplasia, diabetes, asthma, hypothyroidism, and heart disease can compromise a dog’s ability to regulate his body temperature. If there are stairs involved when your dog goes outside, be at his side to help. And take the time to clear a smooth, dry path so your dog can leave the house, take care of business, and return safely to the warmth of home. Maybe a ramp is in order, or unroll a piece of carpet for easy grip footing.
Senior dogs and puppies spend a lot of time sleeping, so be sure your dog’s favorite snooze spots are warm and out of drafts. Wrap a warm hot-water bottle in a plush towel and give it to your dog as a bed partner, especially after a trip outside. This is comforting for all dogs, particularly older dogs and puppies.
You’ll also want to use caution with putting booties on older dogs, particularly ones that have never worn shoes before. Paws have a tactile sensation that helps dogs keep their grip on a surface, so if a senior dog is less nimble than they once were, losing some of that grip might make them more prone to slipping.
BE PREPARED FOR AN EMERGENCY
Winter weather can mean blizzards and power outages, so it’s a smart to create a disaster emergency kit for your entire family, including, of course, your pup. Pack up enough food, water, and meds, including prescriptions, to get everyone through at least five days. Sadly, here in the dry West, wild fires can strike any time, so have an emergency evacuation kit ready in case you have to leave. Most likely you will never need these things, but if you do, you will be thankful you planned ahead!
Just remember, you’re the best friend your Greyhound will ever have. To help him make it comfortably and safely through the winter months, all you have to do is combine common sense with some good advice and put yourself in your own dog’s “booties.” If you’re cold and want to come inside, most likely he does, too. Together, you can enjoy all the cozy comforts of winter while waiting for the joys of spring to arrive.
DIY ICE MELT
Homemade ice melt is easy to make. In a bucket, combine a half-gallon of hot water, about six drops of dish soap, and ¼ cup of rubbing alcohol. Once you pour the homemade ice melt mixture onto your sidewalk or driveway, the snow and ice will begin to bubble up and melt. Just keep a shovel handy to scrape away any leftover pieces of ice. Put some in a spray bottle to do your car windows.