Outdoor winter care for indoor dogs

As I write this on the Monday before it appears here, all I can say is “Baby, it’s cold outside!” I have The Weather Channel app on my tablet, and its update at 2:10 p.m. noted that Fallon’s temperature was 19 degrees (but felt like 9 degrees). Brrr!!! With clear skies in abundance, we’ll probably dip down into negative numbers during the wee hours of the morning.

If these super-frigid temperatures numb your fingers and toes, you can be sure that dogs and cats also feel the bone-chilling cold. Like humans, if left outdoors too long, dogs and cats can suffer from frostbite, dehydration, and hypothermia when temperatures plummet. CAPS hopes that all keepers of cats actually keep their kitties indoors at all times, for various reasons. (In fact, cats adopted from CAPS must be indoor-only per the adoption contract.)

Dogs are, however, another story. In many homes, nobody but Fido and Fluffy are there all day. The humans in the household keep their feline friend, Fluffy, inside when they go to work because she uses the litter box (and it’s the right thing to do). However, their canine companion, Fido, needs a potty break a couple of times a day. Not having thumbs, Fido cannot turn a doorknob himself, so the inevitable happens and he ends up spending his days outdoors.

Though some breeds (say, malamutes or huskies) handle colder weather well, most dogs do not. Most at risk are puppies, shorthaired dogs, senior dogs and those with health problems, but you can provide protection and warmth. First on the list is shelter. Build or buy a dog house that is just big enough for your dog to turn around and lie down comfortably. Any larger than that, the space will be hard to keep warm via body heat.

Position the dog house so that the doorway is not facing the prevailing wind. To help insulate the interior more, staple burlap or polyethylene (cut slightly larger than the opening) at the top of the doorway. Most dogs will easily learn how to use this doggie door. Insulate the floor of this outdoor home with a thick layer of straw or cedar shavings, both of which should be changed regularly. To make it extra comfy, throw an old blanket on top; if not, please brush your furry friend when he comes in for the night.

Provide shorthaired dogs with a sweater or vest that covers the neck, chest and belly. Dog booties also protect paws from snow and ice. Don’t forget water — dogs can become dehydrated in winter as well as in summer. Use a plastic bowl filled with enough water so that it’s not likely to freeze during daylight hours and place it outside the dog house. (Do not use a metal bowl; like ours, a dog’s tongue could freeze to it).

Give your pooch extra calories, especially protein, if he has to spend his days outdoors. This is truly vital to his well-being. Finally, when your workday is done, bring Fido inside where he can be with his pack where there is love and companionship.

Don’t forget that CAPS will be at Walmart on Dec. 21, so please stop by and see us from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. We’d love it if we could help with your last-minute shopping. We’ll have our pullover and zipped hoodies, sweatshirts, long- and short-sleeved T-shirts, calendars, caps, totes and baked goods for sale.

Though we have had pullover hoodies for a good while, the zipped ones are new items in our merchandise. Do you find it cumbersome to wear a pullover hoodie, particularly if you have to pull it on and off several times a day? A zipped one is another story altogether — so easy to put on and take off!

While you’re visiting with us, why not get your 2014 Happy Endings calendar? A bargain at only $10, it also makes an inexpensive gift. (All proceeds directly go to the dogs and cats in our care.) The calendar can also be purchased at the shelter (on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.) and these fine merchants: Mutts, etc.; The UPS Store; Red Zinnia; The Family Pet Connection; and Flower Tree Nursery.

This week’s article was contributed by Betty Duncan, a member of the CAPS board of directors.


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