Friday, February 18, 2011

Winter Season Tips

by Jill Swan

Right now about half the country is in the middle of an arctic siege. We need to dress differently and take precautions during these winter months. The same goes for our pointing dogs. I especially think about my very first dog that still lives happily at my parents' house: a Brittany named Daisy.

She's almost ten years old, which brings a few things to mind right away. For one, icy spots should be avoided during walks around the neighborhood so that she doesn’t slip and twist or break something, which really is the case for dogs of any age. Older dogs (and young pups) also can’t regulate their body temperature as well, so they can’t be outside in freezing or below-freezing temperatures for very long.

She is not as susceptible to the cold as other pointing breeds that have shorter coats; however, her feathers get easily ornamented with ice balls after a decent romp through the snow, so it's important for her to have a dry, warm place to return to.

Some other things all dog owners should be aware of:
Paw Care. Salt and other de-icers for sidewalks and roads can cause irritation on your dog’s foot pads, which causes the dog to lick its paws. An upset stomach is usually the result since these products are toxic; however, this occurring too often can lead to more serious issues. Wipe off your dog’s paws with a moist towel right after coming back inside. Also watch for ice balls that may have formed between the dog’s toes. “You can reduce the problem by trimming the hair,” says Larry Brown.
Frostbite. “All dogs should be watched for frostbite on the extremities (feet, ears, tail, etc.),” says Dr. Ben Character. These areas are susceptible because they are the most exposed to the elements and often have less insulation from hair or fat or muscle. Frostbite in an area begins as a reddish color that gradually turns to grey. If you suspect frostbite, give your dog a warm – not hot – bath, and wrap the dog in towels. Don’t rub the affected spots. Call your vet if the problem looks to be significant.
Dehydration. Look at your hands after two months of winter and you can easily tell how little moisture is in the air. Dry winter air takes moisture from our dogs, who lose even more during a winter workout. To replace that moisture, we need to encourage our dogs to drink more often during and after working outside. The signs of dehydration are lack of skin elasticity, constipation, exhaustion, appetite loss, vomiting, and depression. Offer a dehydrated dog lukewarm water in small doses on a frequent basis. If your dog still refuses to drink, entice by adding a bouillon cube. Sometimes it takes two or three hours for recovery, but improvement will begin within 20 minutes of the first dose because that’s when the water starts to plump up the shriveled cells.
Antifreeze. Dogs think this stuff is candy. Keep an eye on your dog when outdoors, especially in areas where it can encounter this poison. According to Dr. Ben, “The first symptom of antifreeze toxicity you will notice is something called ataxia, where the dog appears to be drunk. Within a short time, the second-stage symptoms, which include vomiting and depression, will begin to occur; lastly, the dogs usually either become comatose or begin to have severe seizures.” To put it in perspective, a 75-pound Lab has to lap up only two-thirds of a cup to be harmed. For Daisy, who’s half that size, that’s twice the amount. Take your dog to the vet immediately.

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