Hot and Cold Weather Care and Recommendations

Hot Weather Care | Cold Weather Care

Hot Weather Care and Recommendations:

Introduction: Dogs do not necessarily adapt easily to hot weather. Because they do not sweat, it is important to devise strategies to keep dogs cool and comfortable during hot weather. During warm weather, dogs are also at increased risk from external parasites, biting insects, inhalant allergies, and heartworm disease. The following are basic hot weather care recommendations:

  1. Provide fresh water at all times: Water is an essential nutrient; dogs need water on a daily basis to prevent dehydration and to ensure proper functioning of the body. The dog’s need for water increases as the temperature rises. All dogs should have access to clean water at all times. Water bowls should be kept in shaded areas to prevent heating and evaporation. Because they keep water cooler than metal or plastic bowls, clay or ceramic bowls should be used. Bowls should be secured so they cannot tip or spill. Water should be changed a minimum of once per day. In addition to drinking water, a tub or child’s pool filled with clean water will give dogs the opportunity to submerge themselves and cool off.

  2. Provide shelter from the sun: All dogs need protection from the burning rays of the sun. The shelter needs to be a permanent structure large enough to shield the dog no matter where the sun is in the sky. Do not tie the dog under a tree and expect the shade to last all day. The ideal shelter in extremely hot weather is the owner’s house. Dogs that are left outside should have a doghouse or shelter that allows them to get off the ground and is well ventilated. Putting the doghouse under an overhang or shade tree will keep the interior cooler. If the dog is kept in a concrete run, make sure the animal has access to a raised surface off the concrete. Concrete exposed to the sun heats up rapidly and cools too slowly to provide a comfortable surface for the dog.

  3. Protect your dog from heatstroke: Dogs only cool by panting; they cannot sweat. As the outside temperature rises, panting becomes less effective and dogs can easily overheat. Old, young, obese, and ill dogs are at greater risk of overheating, as are dogs with short noses and flat faces. Dogs can easily overheat during exercise or if they lack adequate water and shelter from the sun. To prevent heatstroke, limit exercise, provide plenty of cool water and shade, and keep the dog out of parked cars, closed crates, and poorly ventilated rooms. Monitor the dog for signs of overheating.

    Dogs that are overheating will look anxious, pant excessively, and have a rapid heart rate. The nose, legs, and ears will be hot to the touch. The mouth and tongue can be bright red or purple. As the condition worsens and heat stroke occurs, the tongue may swell and the animal can develop diarrhea. The condition can progress to weakness, coma, and death.

    A dog that is suffering from heatstroke must be cooled immediately to prevent permanent damage or death. Move the dog to a cool area and cover the animal with cool water. Place ice packs wrapped in a towel in the armpits and around the head. Do not submerge the dog in ice. As soon as cooling has begun, seek emergency veterinary treatment.

  4. Protect your dog from sunburn: Although most dogs are not prone to sunburn, dogs with pink skin and white hair are susceptible to the harmful rays of the sun. Skin that is visible through the hair is at risk of burning. The nose and earflaps are also vulnerable. Areas that are exposed to excess sun will turn red, blister, lose hair, and crust over. Chronic exposure can predispose the nose and earflaps to skin cancers. Sunburned skin should be cooled with cold compresses and may require veterinary care. Dogs with white hair, pink skin, and sensitive noses and earflaps should be sheltered from the sun during its peak hours. Dogs with chronic sunburn on the nose should wear sunscreen before sun exposure.

  5. Protect your dog from fleas and ticks: Ticks and fleas are most active during the warm months. Both of these external parasites feed on the blood of the dog and can spread diseases. Fleas are responsible for transmitting the plague, act as intermediate hosts for dog tapeworms, and can cause severe allergic skin inflammation on dogs. Ticks carry the organisms that cause Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and ehrlichiosis. Tick toxins can cause paralysis in both dogs and humans. Dogs should be checked for fleas and ticks on a daily basis.

    Fleas can be controlled with sprays, powders, shampoos, dips, collars, oral medications, and several brands of topical spot-on products that are applied intermittently to the dog’s skin. Long-term adequate control is typically achieved by combining a hormone product that prevents eggs and larvae from maturing with insecticides that kill adult fleas. Spot-on products are typically applied at monthly intervals.

    Ticks can be controlled with sprays, shampoos, dips, collars, and topical spot-on products. Even with the use of these products, dogs should be checked daily for ticks. Any ticks found on the dog should be removed to prevent the spread of disease organisms from the tick to the dog. Flea combs and the sticky rollers used to remove lint from clothing are good tools to catch the small seed ticks that can be overlooked. The tiny ticks catch in the tines of the comb and are picked up by the adhesive on the lint brush. Gloves should be worn to remove embedded ticks. Using gloved fingers or commercially available tick forceps, the tick should be grasped as near to the mouthparts as possible. Traction is used to pull the tick out of the skin. The tick should not be twisted during removal. Avoid contact with the tick with bare hands. See F770 for additional information.

  6. Protect your dog from heartworm disease: Heartworm disease occurs whenever and wherever mosquitoes are biting. Heartworm infection is most common during the warmer months of the year. See page F310 for a complete discussion of heartworm disease. Dogs should be kept on a heartworm preventative medication throughout the mosquito season. Puppies can be started on preventative at their first veterinary visit. All adult dogs need to be blood tested for heartworm disease prior to being started on preventative. Dogs on year round heartworm preventatives should still be tested annually. Dogs already suffering from heartworm disease need to be treated for the disease, not placed on preventative. Giving the preventative to a dog with heartworm disease can result in the dog’s death. Once the dog is treated for heartworm disease, the dog can then be placed on the preventative to avoid reintroduction of heartworms.

    There are several types of preventative products available, including a daily tablet, several brands of monthly tablets, a monthly spot-on topical solution, and an injection that lasts for six months. Many of these heartworm prevention products also kill other internal and external parasites.

  7. Protect your dog from insect stings: Bees, wasps, hornet, and ants are most active in the warm months. Dogs that investigate hives and nests can end up with multiple stings, often centered in their mouths and on their faces. Local reactions to stings include pain, swelling, redness, heat, and itching at the site of the sting. Generalized allergic reactions can include tremendous swelling, difficulty breathing, a drop in blood pressure, shock, and death. Steps should be taken to prevent stings by eliminating hives and nests in the yard and around the home.

    Treatment for an insect sting includes scraping the stinger out of the skin with a credit card or butter knife or removing it with tweezers, then applying ice to the swelling. A veterinarian may recommend oral antihistamines to control pain and itching. If the dog is having a generalized (whole body) reaction with severe swelling and difficulty breathing, the animal must be seen immediately by a veterinarian. Dogs that have a severe reaction to an insect sting will most likely have the same reaction if stung again, so the veterinarian will recommend emergency medications to be kept at home.

  8. Protect your dog from bites: Biting flies, spiders, and even snakes are also more active during warm months. Steps should be taken to keep a pet away from animals that can inflict dangerous bites. Removing garbage and debris, providing shelter for the dog, and putting food bowls away can discourage flies. Fly repellent can be applied to the dog’s face and ears. Sick and debilitated pets should be kept indoors; outdoors they are easy targets for flies.

    Spiders can inflict painful bites that become swollen and cause severe damage to the tissues involved. The black widow spider and brown recluse spider can inflict bites that require immediate medical care. Spiders should be removed from the dog’s living areas. Snakes bites can result in the loss of a limb or even the death of the dog. Snakes can be discouraged by keeping the lawn mowed and cleaning up hiding places such as brush piles, long grasses, and heavy vegetation.

  9. Protect your dog from toxins and poisons: Lawn care products such as herbicides, insecticides, and fertilizers are all potential toxins for dogs. Keep these and other house and yard maintenance products from dogs to prevent poisonings. Car care products such as antifreeze, coolants, and oils are extremely dangerous for dogs. Steps need to be taken to avoid accidental contact or consumption. Keep these products in tightly sealed containers away from animals, clean up spills immediately, and remove pets from the area when changing the car’s antifreeze.

  10. Protect your dog from contagious diseases: Dogs and their owners are more active in the warm months. Recreational activities bring dogs together at parks, lakes, beaches, and social gatherings. Increased exposure to other dogs increases the risk of exposure to contagious disease. Maintaining current vaccinations will provide protection against dog diseases such as distemper, parvovirus enteritis, leptospirosis, and kennel cough. Current vaccinations are a requirement for many untreatable, potentially fatal diseases such as rabies. See page A905 for vaccination programs.

  11. Control summer allergies: Flowering plants and grasses can cause inhalant and contact allergies in dogs. Contact allergies occur when the dog touches a substance that creates an allergic response at the point of contact. Common warm weather contact allergens include grasses and plants that the dog lies on, such as jasmine. Signs of a contact allergy include itchy, red, bumpy skin at the point of contact. Inhalant allergies occur when the dog inhales pollens and spores from plants, trees, grasses, and molds. These animals have itchy skin, especially on the face and feet.

    Because it is difficult to remove the source of warm weather allergies, most dogs are treated with medications to control the allergic response. These medications may include antihistamines, corticosteroids, and allergy serum injections.

    See page F770 for additional allergy information.

  12. Protect your dog from seasonal activities: It is tempting to include a pet in warm weather, seasonal activities such as picnics in the park, vacation travel, and firework displays. Care must be taken to ensure the dog’s safety during these outings. Provide adequate restraint, food, and water for a pet that will be away from home. It may be necessary to carry food and water from home. Make sure that there is a shelter, pavilion, or overhang to shade the dog from the sun. Soft-sided, crate-like enclosures that screen the sun, allow ventilation for cooling, and safely restrain the dog can be purchased from many retailers. The dog should be wearing current identification, and be kept on a leash. If the animal is not acclimated to fireworks, it may be better off left at home.

  13. Protect your dog from the beach: Many owners bring their dogs to the beach. It is important to make sure that the dog is allowed at the site; if not allowed on the beach, the dog cannot be left in the car. Make sure that the dog knows how to swim. The ocean is not the place to teach a dog to swim. Dogs should be taught to swim in shallow, calm waters. Even dogs that are accomplished swimmers may have trouble with the tides, currents, and waves found in the ocean. If the water is too dangerous or too rough for humans, dogs should not be allowed in either.

    Provide shelter from the sun and sand. Dogs should be allowed under an umbrella or overhang, and onto a blanket or towel. This will cool the dog and protect it from insects that live in the sand. Prevent the dog from drinking ocean water by providing an abundant source of cool water. Protect the dog from jellyfish and other sea creatures that can inflict bites and pinches. Keep overweight dogs from over-exercising in loose sand to avoid strains and sprains. Wash or rinse the pet to remove sand and salt after a day at the beach.

  14. Protect your dog from boats: Many owners like to take their dogs boating. Dogs that go on boats should be accomplished swimmers that enjoy the activity. Dogs should be first acclimated to the boat at the dock, then brought on short voyages on calm waters. Dogs, like humans, can suffer from motion sickness, so the dog should be watched for signs of nausea. Motion sickness medications can be used under a veterinarian’s supervision.

    Care should be taken to prevent the dog from accidentally going overboard. Dogs, like people, should wear life vests. Life vests for dogs have handles that allow the dogs to be picked up out of the water if necessary. Dogs should not be tied on board a boat; if the boat capsizes, the dog will drown. Potable water should be carried for the dog while on board.

Cold Weather Care and Recommendations:

Introduction: Even though dogs have fur that insulates them from the cold, they are still susceptible to the ill effects of low temperatures. Dogs can suffer from hypothermia, frostbite, dehydration, and malnutrition during the cold months. It is important to devise strategies to protect and shelter them. The following are some basic cold weather care recommendations that should be considered:

  1. Provide fresh water at all times: Dogs must have access to clean water at all times of the year. Cold weather does not diminish the need for a constant supply of water. Snow and ice do not replace water. Fresh, unfrozen water needs to be available on a continual basis. A heater may be needed to keep water from freezing. Large, ceramic bowls are better than metal bowls for holding water; the dog’s tongue may stick to a cold, metal bowl.

  2. Provide shelter from rain, snow, and wind: All dogs, no matter the length and thickness of their coats, need protection from winter precipitation and wind. A proper structure keeps the dog warm, dry, out of drafts, and up off the damp ground. The best structure is the owner’s house. If the dog cannot be kept in the house, a doghouse or similar structure must be constructed. The house should be large enough to allow the dog to turn around and lie down in, but small enough for the dog’s body to heat. It should be insulated to reduce heat loss to the outside. Traditional wooden doghouses with an open front and peaked roof are not suitable for most winter environments. The wood is a poor insulator, prone to rot, and attractive to insects. The open door allows cold air to fill the house. A better design is a plastic resin house with an offset door and a covering flap. Houses should be elevated off the ground, faced away from the prevailing wind, have a blanket or similar object for bedding, and be placed under an existing roof or structure. These tactics provide essential insulation and protection from the elements.

  3. Protect your dog from hypothermia: Hypothermia is the medical term for a body temperature below normal. Even though dogs have fur, they can still lose enough body heat to suffer from hypothermia. Wet, cold dogs are prime candidates for hypothermia. So are dogs that cannot regulate their body temperature easily. This includes dogs that are shorthaired, very young, ill, underweight, or elderly. Once the body temperature starts to fall, the dog’s internal organs cease to function properly. The dog may shiver, be cold to the touch, lethargic, suffer from a drop in heart rate and respiratory rate, and become unresponsive. Never neglect a dog showing these signs because hypothermia can be fatal.

    Treatment consists of warming the dog with hot water bottles, hair dryers, or heating pads. Treatment must be immediate, but done slowly enough to avoid burns. Heating pads should be covered with a towel and hair dryers set on low. The dog should be turned to prevent overheating one side of the body and to stimulate circulation. Once the process is started and the dog begins to warm up, it should be wrapped in a blanket and immediately transferred to the veterinarian for further treatment.

    Keeping a dog warm and dry can prevent hypothermia. Wind and water rob a dog of heat, so shelter is a necessity. Dogs that are wet and cold should be brought indoors and dried. Dogs with short hair coats can be protected with sweaters or coats designed for dogs. Because they only warm the dog’s body, coats are not a substitute for shelter and they must cleaned frequently to maintain their insulating properties. They will, however, keep short-haired dogs comfortable when the thermometer drops.

  4. Protect your dog from frostbite: Frostbite occurs when the body tissues become so cold that circulation is impaired and damage results. Areas prone to frostbite include ears, feet, and the tip of the tail. These parts of the dog often lack hair and receive decreased blood flow when the dog’s body is chilled. Feet are especially prone to frostbite because snow and ice can pack between the toes, providing a direct source of cold.

    Frostbitten areas will initially turn white and may lose hair. If warmed, the tissue will redden and swell. Frostbite is very painful. Dogs with frostbite should have the affected areas slowly and gently warmed. Avoid vigorous rubbing and extremely high temperatures, because this will cause more damage to already devitalized tissues. Once treatment is begun, the dog should be brought to the veterinarian for further care. Response to treatment varies depending on the extent of tissue damage. If damage is not severe, recovery is possible, although the hair may not grow back, or it may grow in white. Some frostbitten areas do not recover and often require amputation.

  5. Protect your dog from malnutrition: Like most people, many dogs do not require more calories just because it is cold outside. However, dogs that spend a great deal of time outside or those that work and run during the winter may need additional calories to meet their bodies’ demands. Calories can be increased by increasing the total amount of food given to the animal or by increasing the amount of fat in the diet. Some dogs can literally not eat a large enough amount of dry food to meet their caloric needs during the winter. These dogs will need added energy and fats to increase the number of calories per bite. The goal is to maintain optimum weight all year, no matter what the actual outside temperature. If a dog is outside, it should be regularly checked to make sure that it is not losing weight.

  6. Protect your dog from toxins and poisons: The commercial products used to make life easier in the cold months can be dangerous for dogs. Road salts and the chemicals designed to melt ice are toxic for dogs. They irritate the dog’s footpads, can burn skin, and cause mouth irritations if swallowed. Sand mixed in with the chemicals can abrade pads and skin, leading to more irritation and secondary infections. The dog’s exposure to these irritants can be limited by putting boots on the dog and making sure that ice, snow, and road salt are routinely removed from the feet, chest, and belly. Rinsing these areas and drying them will remove the chemicals, melt hardened ice and snow, and remove bacteria. Keeping the feet warm and dry will help prevent blisters and infections.

    Care should also be taken to keep car products, such as antifreeze, away from dogs. Antifreeze is also used by some owners to prevent freezing of pipes in a home that is closed for the winter. This type of antifreeze, made from ethylene glycol, tastes good and is extremely toxic to dogs. Dogs have been known to chew through the plastic bottle to get to the antifreeze inside. Antifreeze containers should be wiped clean before storing. They should be stored in areas that are inaccessible to dogs. Very small amounts of the product can cause rapid kidney failure and death. If a dog has consumed antifreeze, the animal should be brought to the veterinarian for immediate treatment. Do not wait to see if the dog becomes sick; seek emergency medical care as rapidly as possible.

  7. Protect your young, old, or infirm dog: Dogs that are very young, very old, or suffering from disease lack the stamina of young, healthy adult dogs. The stresses associated with cold weather will have a greater effect on these animals. They are less able to maintain their body weight, more likely to chill rapidly, and more likely to fall or be injured. Their immune system is less able to fight off disease, so they are more likely to become ill. Care should be taken to provide these animals with extra protection from the rigors of cold weather. These animals should be housed in a warm, dry indoor environment, and their general health should be monitored. Body weight and fat should be accessed to make sure that the animals are not losing weight. All cold weather precautions should be followed in order to provide for the proper care of these animals.

  8. Protect your dog’s feet and pads: Dogs’ paws and pads are often wet, muddy, or covered with snow and ice in the winter. If not properly treated, lameness and infection can occur. Tiny abrasions, cuts, and cracks caused by the ice and frozen mud can lead to lameness. Bacteria and yeast can overgrow in the wet, dirty cracks and lead to infections of the nail beds and pads. These infections can be painful and may eventually result in the loss of a nail. In addition, snow, ice, or mud that is frozen in between the toes can force the toes apart and cause the dog to walk incorrectly.

    Ice that is frozen into clumps along the hair on the leg can pull the hair away from the skin and cause irritation. In severe cases, packed snow can impair circulation and lead to frostbite. Finally, road salt, sand, and de-icing chemicals can cause blisters, irritations, and burns on the feet and pads.

    Ice and mud should be removed from the dog’s feet and pads. Clipping long leg and foot hair to a moderate length may facilitate this winter grooming. After the ice and snow are removed, the feet can be rinsed and dried to remove chemicals and dirt. The use of dog boots can help prevent the build-up of ice and snow that leads to foot irritations.

  9. Protect your dog from burns: More burns occur during winter than any other time of year. There are many potential sources of excess heat that can cause burn injuries. These include wood burning and gas fireplaces, portable electric and propane space heaters, and even electric blankets. Dogs can be burned by sleeping too close to heat sources, or by flying embers and sparks. They can knock over space heaters and chew through electric cords. Sleeping on heating pads or electric blankets can create hotspots on the dogs’ bodies that lead to burns. Even hot winter beverages that are accidentally spilled can cause painful burns.

    Burns from fireplaces can be prevented by the use of properly placed screens. Other burns can be prevented by monitoring dogs at all times when space heaters or heating pads are being used. No dogs should ever be left alone in a room with any type of space heater. Dogs should not be allowed to sleep unattended on electric blankets. Dogs should not be allowed to sleep directly on the surface of a heating pad and should be monitored continually if one is used.

    Accidental burns should be treated immediately by placing ice on the burned area and seeking veterinary care. The damage caused by a burn can be much greater than it appears, so a veterinarian should examine all burns.

  10. Protect your dog from accidents: Dogs do not instinctively know how to handle themselves in the winter. They cannot find their way through blinding blizzards and can become lost and disoriented. Like people, dogs can fall on the ice or slippery surfaces and injure themselves. They also cannot tell if an ice-covered lake, pond, or river is safe to walk across. Dogs can easily fall through thin ice and drown. Make sure that a pet only has access to frozen water surfaces that are known to be safe. If a wintertime activity is not safe for humans, it should not be considered safe for a dog.

  11. Protect your dog from seasonal holidays: Winter holidays are very exciting, but are a potential source of danger for a dog. Holiday foods can be a problem. Do not allow a dog to eat excessive amounts of holiday treats or leftovers. The result can be digestive upsets, vomiting, diarrhea, and even a potentially fatal inflammation of the pancreas called pancreatitis. Avoid letting a dog eat the bones from holiday turkeys or other meats. The bones can splinter or catch in the digestive tract. Because chocolate is toxic to animals, do not feed holiday treats rich in this sweet to a dog. A 10 pound dog consuming as little as one ounce of baking chocolate can become fatally sick.

    Dogs also need to be protected from the Christmas tree. Do not allow a pet to chew on Christmas tree needles that fall from the tree. The needles are very sharp and will irritate the mouth, gums, and tongue and can penetrate the intestines if swallowed. All dogs should also be prevented from drinking the water from the tree stand. This water can be contaminated with insecticides and fertilizers from the tree trunk. Because items such as wrapping strings, ribbons, and tinsel can lodge in the intestines and create severe damage and blockages, avoid letting a pet play with them. Hang ornaments above the level of the dog’s mouth to prevent the dog from knocking them over and chewing on them. Homemade ginger bread and dough ornaments are especially attractive to dogs, so hang these ornaments high in the tree or place a decorative fence around the tree to keep the dog away. Finally, make sure electric light cords are placed out of reach of a curious dog’s mouth.

    Decorative plants such as poinsettia, holly, Jerusalem cherry, amaryllis, and mistletoe are poisonous to dogs. These plants should be kept in areas that the dog cannot reach or be replaced with artificial plants. Holiday candles should also be kept in inaccessible areas and monitored when lit.

    Do not push a dog to interact with visitors if the dog is uncomfortable. Dogs that are not used to a lot of guests or have never socialized with children may be uncomfortable in crowded situations. These dogs should be allowed to leave and relax, undisturbed, in a quiet area of the house. This can make the holiday more enjoyable for everyone involved.