Let’s face it, blizzards are no walk in the park for dog lovers—especially when you literally can’t even get to the park! Whether you live in or are visiting a cold climate this winter, preparing for a blizzard means stocking up on essential dog safety products, planning activities to keep your dog entertained and arming yourself with the knowledge you’ll need to keep your dog safe during a storm.
How Cold is Too Cold for Dogs?
Recognizing how cold is too cold for dogs is simple: “If it is too cold or too dangerous for you to be outside, then it is not safe for your dog either,” says Kelly Ryan, DVM, director of veterinary services at the Humane Society of Missouri’s Animal Medical Center of Mid-America. “In blizzard conditions, dogs are susceptible to frostbite and injuries from slips and falls or even being trapped in the snow.”
Dress Your Dog Warmly
“If it is safe enough for your dog to go outside, dress your dog in a jacket, preferably one that is waterproof and will keep him warm and dry,” Dr. Ryan says. “Dog booties will help protect paws from ice melt and frostbite.”
As with many blizzard preparations, training your dog to accept and use dog boots, like Kurgo’s Step & Strobe dog boots, is best started before they’re needed. When putting on the dog boots, reward your pup with high-value dog treats, such as PureBites’ freeze-dried chicken treats, which contain one ingredient: chicken.
Warm weather dogs who don’t regularly wear a dog jacket or dog shirt also can benefit from plenty of positive reinforcement as they become accustomed to the feel of the garment. For an easy-to-put-on dog jacket, Frisco’s fleece-lined coat is reflective for safety and features two Velcro straps for a snugly and easy fit.
Stock Up on Dog Food and Supplies
Now’s the time to consider everything your dog will need in the event of an extended period of time in your home. Dr. Ryan says “pet parents should have a disaster kit for their pets, no matter what the weather forecast may be.
“The kit can be a plastic tote or sturdy box, as long as it can hold enough pet food to last at least a couple of weeks,” she continues. “The tote should also contain bottled water in case pipes freeze and a supply of your pet’s medications. Be sure to check expiration dates on foods and medications throughout the year.”
Products like freeze-dried dog food can be a good option for pet parents who generally depend on fresh or frozen food. Rehydrating meals is easy, even if the power is out.
Check Your Pet’s Medications
Dog safety preparations extend beyond stockpiling food. Now’s the time to check on any prescription pet medication.
“If your pet is on a prescription medication, be sure you have enough on hand, and call your veterinarian before weather conditions get bad if you think you may run out of the prescription,” Dr. Ryan says.
Storms can last longer than expected, so make sure you have enough medication to last if blizzard conditions are extended.
Keep Your Pet Close When Outdoors
Are you getting cabin fever and determined to do a little dog walking in the winter wonderland? Make sure you maintain control of your pet.
“Wind gusts and the slippery ground can make for a treacherous walk, so you will want to make sure you have a good grip on the leash,” Dr. Ryan says. “A waist leash can help prevent your dog from running away in case you accidentally drop the regular leash. Avoid walking on ice and be sure to wipe down your dog’s fur and paws to remove snow and ice melt when you are ready to come in.”
NOTE: A blizzard is not the time for a lost dog. A GPS dog collar, like Whistle 3’s dog GPS tracker, can help monitor your dog’s location if separated. Along with a dog GPS collar or dog tracking collar, have your dog’s microchip information at the ready with your veterinary info.
Plan for Potty Breaks
Even if it’s too cold for a brief dog walk, sooner or later you’ll need to schedule a potty break for your dog.
“It’s a good idea to clear a patch of snow near your door to allow a place for your dog to go to the bathroom,” Dr. Ryan says. “You may need to shovel the spot often if the snow is falling heavily. This will allow quick and easy access for your pet to go out.”
If blizzards are part of your annual routine, consider purchasing a grass-like potty pad or housetraining dog potty pads.
“On days that it isn’t safe to be outside, even for a minute, these pads will be a safe and sanitary way for your dog to go,” Dr. Ryan says.
Know the Signs of Frostbite
Be on the lookout for signs of frostbite during extreme weather conditions. These most often are seen on the pet’s ear tips, toes and tip of the tail. Dr. Ryan urges dog lovers to watch for these signs:
• Pale, blue or gray skin color. If untreated, the skin will change to dark blue and then black as it dies.
• Ice on the body
• Pain when touching affected body parts
“If you see signs of frostbite, wrap the pet in dry towels and use warm—not hot—water bottles or a warm heating pad to bring the pet’s temperature back up,” Dr. Ryan says. “Be sure not to use water bottles or heating pads directly on the fur or skin.
“Use warm water to gently treat the affected body part,” she continues. “Finally, call your veterinarian to see if further treatment is necessary. It becomes an emergency if the pet is experiencing shock, hypothermia, or an injury.”
Enjoy Some Fun Time
When your dog can’t go outside for fun, bring the fun indoors! Plan fun games with a plush dog toy, like KONG’s Marvin the Moose dog toy, for cuddling on cold winter nights and keeping your dog entertained.
Break up the boredom with long-lasting dog antler chews like USA Bones & Chews’ antlers. Or entertain your pup with dog interactive toys that provide mental stimulation as he “hunts” for his treats. The Nina Ottosson by Outward Hound’s twister interactive toy has compartments to hide kibble or dog treats.
With your disaster kit and preparations in place, Dr. Ryan says that you’re ready to “curl up with your pets and enjoy cozy snuggles until the weather breaks.” After all, that’s what being best friends is all about—regardless of the weather!
By Paris Permenter
Featured Image: via iStock.com/doug4537