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Letter: How To Care For Your Pet During Extreme Weather

NORWALK, Conn. -- The Norwalk Daily Voice accepts signed letters to the editor. Send letters to norwalk@dailyvoice.com.

To the editor:

It's winter time. The holidays may be over, but the weather outside is still frightful. Cold, wind, snow, all these conditions can make outdoor time for our pets dangerous. Common question I get asked frequently as a canine expert, is there anything I really need to do to protect my dog from the elements? The answer is YES, absolutely!

Dogs, just like humans need to protect themselves in the winter from extreme weather conditions. Although dogs have fur and hair, this protective layer may not be enough when the weather conditions become extreme. We all have seen pictures of the Nordic breeds of dogs mushing through the snow as they pull the sleds. Unfortunately not all dogs are suited to survive in this type of weather. If your dog has a thick undercoat, the cold will not affect him as much as some other dogs that don’t. If you take your hand and go against the grain of the dogs fur and you can see the skin below, chances are your dog has little, if any undercoat. Dogs like Dobermans, Boxers, smooth haired Dachshunds, Weimaraners, Viszlas are breeds that do not have undercoats and may require some added protection, especially when the temperatures drop below freezing. Putting an insulated dog coat on your dog is a great solution, especially if the dog will be outside longer then a few minutes. When buying a dog coat, you want to make sure that the jacket is designed to cover and protect your dog’s underbelly. If you use a harness to walk your dog, make sure the harness hole is where you need it to be before you buy the jacket.

I encounter one of the biggest problems when walking my own dog Dave. While the Dog Gone Smart’s Aspen Parka keeps his body protected from the elements, the snow balls up around his paws and pads, making it very uncomfortable for him to walk. If this happens to your dog, have the groomer clip the fur around and between the pads to help prevent this from happening. There are also some great new dog booties on the market that protect your dog from the ice, salt and snow. I like the new booties made by RuffWear. They have a sensible design that protects the dogs’ pads, paws and pasterns, and also give the dog a good grip or “paw hold." My kennel manager Debbie owns Bouviers (this is a breed that has a lot of hair around the dogs pads), she swears on Pam, the non-stick product used in cooking. She sprays a little on each of the dog’s pads before they go outside, and voila nothing sticks.

Many times housebreaking issues may develop when there is deep snow. Dogs just can’t get out far enough away from the house to eliminate. Make sure you shovel a path to your dog’s favorite potty spot, and also shovel an area for him to eliminate.

When it comes to salting the sidewalks and driveways, be very careful which products you use. Some of the products meant to melt the ice tend to burn your pup’s paws and cause irritation. They also can be toxic if your dog licks his paws. Products like Safe Paw work very well and are non-toxic. I cannot keep enough of this product on my store shelves.

Dogs also tend to not get enough exercise during the winter season. This can lead to boredom and even behavioral issues at home. If you are finding that you just can’t get out and bear the weather, try bringing your pup to an indoor doggie day care. At Dog Gone Smart, we are very busy during the snowy season and the dogs get lots of time to run, play and even swim. When the owners pick up their dogs at the end of the day, they are exercised, tired and content. With some precaution and planning, you can make the cold weather safe for you pets so you can all enjoy a cozy winter!

Chris Onthank, CEO & Canine Master Dog Gone Smart, Norwalk

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