By Maggie Mae…with Ronni Diamondstein
When it’s cold outside I’m happy that my owner dresses me in one of my winter jackets. Being a small dog and close to the ground, I really feel the cold. And she makes an extra special point of wiping off the salt on my feet when we come in from the ice and snow. It made me wonder if there were other things dogs needed to know about in the winter so I contacted a local veterinarian, Jeremy Tubbs, DVM, of the Millwood Animal Hospital.
I love wearing my coats when I go out but I don’t always see other dogs wearing one on very cold days so I asked Dr. Tubbs if all dogs should wear a coat or sweater. “I think every dog is different and has its own level of tolerance,” says Dr. Tubbs. “Of my two dogs, Solo and Jasper, one loves wearing a sweater or a coat outside, the other will try to take it off. I feel that smaller dogs, and those with shorter hair coats would benefit from one, especially if they are going to be outdoors for a prolonged period of time.”
Sometimes when I’m out in the ice and snow I stop walking because my paw hurts. I lift it up and wait for my owner to make it feel better. I asked Dr. Tubbs about that. “With prolonged activity in the snow, snowballs can accumulate between the pads of a dog’s foot. This may become uncomfortable, or simply make walking difficult,” says Dr. Tubbs. “In this case boots may help, but like anything, a dog has to be trained to use them.” I tried them once but it was hard to walk in them. Dr. Tubbs said he has heard of people using PAM cooking spray on their feet to prevent snow accumulations. “The most important thing is to know your own dog and its limits.” And like my owner, he is all for washing paws when you come in the house. “Some ice melt products can also irritate a dog’s pads and inter-digital spaces. I always recommend a quick wash of the feet after a walk to remove the snow melt and salt to prevent licking and further irritation.”
My friend Willie, a French Bulldog who is eight years old once slipped on the ice and sprained his rear leg. Dr. Tubbs said it very important to consider our older dogs in ice and snow. “By the time they are two years old, over 85% of dogs already have arthritic changes, and it may be more difficult for our geriatric dogs to step over high snow accumulation, or navigate icy sidewalks or areas. In this case, booties may be a good idea for better traction and footing.” And puppies need to be careful too. “Puppies will have more of a challenge over all,” says Dr. Tubbs. “Navigating through snow and ice, immature bones can be more prone to injury. So using more caution with the youngsters is always important.” I also wondered if I still needed topical treatment of flea and tick medication during the winter and Dr. Tubbs agreed that it was a good idea.
“All it takes is for the temperature to become a little mild for fleas and ticks to come out.”
Just like when it is very hot outside it’s not a good idea to leave your dog unattended in the car in the very cold weather. Dr. Tubbs says that dogs have a natural coat 365 days a year, though some are more dense and warm than others. “Air between the skin and the coat acts as a natural insulator. But if a pet is inactive, its core body temperature will lower, and if a pet is not acclimated to cold temperatures, it can become uncomfortable very soon.” Dr. Tubbs says that he would not leave his animals in his car for a prolonged period if the temperature is below 40 degrees. “But my dogs are used to the toasty confines of their dog beds and our home.”
I get excited when I see snow and love to be out and about in the winter, but I do get cold. Like Dr. Tubbs’s dogs nothing makes me happier than being cozy and warm in the house curled up with my owner or on my dog bed.
For more cold weather tips for pets you can go to the ASPCA website: www.aspca.org/pet-care/pet-care-tips/cold-weather-tips.aspx
Maggie Mae lives in Chappaqua with her adoring owner Ronni Diamondstein, who, when she isn’t walking Maggie is a freelance writer, PR consultant, award-winning photographer and a School Library Media Specialist and teacher who has worked in the US and abroad.