Ash Veterinary Clinic


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 In the summer months, many stories are written about potentially fatal consequences of leaving dogs inside hot cars or barns. Leaving a dog outside and exposed to cold weather for long periods of time in the winter can be just as dangerous.  During this time of the year, people do not realize that if you are cold outside, your dog is probably cold, too. Last week we covered information on how to keep your outdoor cat safe during the winter, so this week, we are going to focus on the dogs.

Cold weather can put a significant amount of stress on a dog that can bring out any weaknesses in the pet’s system and magnify any existing health problems. Some dog breeds, like Siberian Huskies and Chow Chows, are built to deal with colder weather. Older canines; however, as well as dogs that are short-haired, smaller and leaner, are far more sensitive to the frigid temperatures. Like humans, animals are unable to deal with cold stresses as they get older.

Keeping a dog’s hair long during the winter months is not enough to keep the animal sufficiently warm. The hair also needs to be well-groomed. Just because they have a fur coat does not make them immune to the cold. What the long hair does is circulate the air between the body and the hair, keeping the dog warm. It does not work if the hair is tangled and unkempt.

                There are many cases across the United States of negligent owners being cited for keeping their dogs outside during the winter. In these cases, the dog was exposed to the cold for so long that they developed hypothermia or frostbite. Even death can ensue in these types of cases. Besides ensuring dogs are kept indoors as much as possible during the winter, focus on water, food and shelter to keep your dog safe.

                Make sure dogs always have plenty of fresh water that is not frozen. There are bowls that you can purchase at your local pet store that have heaters built in to ensure fresh drinking water. Also give your pet more food if they are mainly outside because they need to burn more calories to generate body heat. This does not apply for dogs that are not outdoors during the winter. If your pet is mostly indoors and exercising less, then they need less food than they would usually get to avoid obesity.

If dogs are going to be kept outdoors for long period of times, adequate shelter is needed. Many stores carry well-insulated doghouses that can protect your dog from wind and precipitation. You can also line these dog houses with blankets and hay to insulate the house even more. Also, heated sleeping pads and can be used to keep the animal warm, but must be monitored to ensure your pet’s safety. A safer option than this is to place the dog house in a garage or barn that is connected to an outside entrance so they have double insulation and the ability to use the bathroom.

                Make sure to check your dog’s paws for cracked or bleeding pads or nails. A limp could indicate ice accumulation between their toes, a cut or an allergy. Wiping your pets feet off when they come into your house will ensure that you are inspecting your pet’s feet every time they come in from outside. This also prevents them from making a mess in your house and removes unwanted salt or debris from their feet.  

                Dogs are stoic creatures that deal with problems silently. There are warning signs that a dog has been exposed for too long, which include lethargy and shivering. Here at Ash Veterinary Clinic in Carleton, we want to make available important information to you and ensure your pets stay safe and warm this winter. If you have any questions or need to schedule an appointment, please call us at 734-782-2827, email us at or visit

[4:06:25 PM] Dianne Raftopoulos: