Prepare now to keep your pet warm

Published 10:12 pm Saturday, October 24, 2009

As you know, winter will be here before we know it! And now is the time to start winterizing outside doghouses.

How your dog is affected by the weather will depend on many factors. Its breed, age, and health all play a part.

For example, if you have a dog bred for cold weather activity like a Samoyed, he will tolerate much lower temperatures than a beagle.

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A furry coat does not always mean a dog will do fine in cold weather. The older dog or a dog with health problems will need some special attention.

Shelter is a must, especially if your dog is outside all the time. The ideal doghouse is usually no more than three times the size of your dog.

This makes it roomy enough for Fido to stand up, turn around, and lie down in. A good, winterized doghouse should be raised 3 to 4 inches off the frozen ground.

A base made out of 2 x 4s will lift the house off the ground and create an insulated air space for warmer air to circulate. If you want the pet condo to be heated, you may want to have a heater installed by a professional.

Extension cords and space heaters can be a deadly combination, not to mention a fire hazard.

You can find heaters made specifically for doghouses at some pet stores and online.

As for bedding, I would stick with something like wood chips or straw. These types of materials retain heat and evaporate moisture.

Old blankets and sheets hold moisture and stay damp, which become very uncomfortable.

If you use straw, be sure to change it out if it becomes wet.

Lying on wet straw can cause skin problems, like rashes, and respiratory problems from straw developing mold. Checking the roof of the doghouse with further prevent dampness.

Place the entrance away from the wind. If there is no way to avoid the wind, place a flap over the door.

Many doghouses purchased at a store already have a flap built in.

Provide plenty of fresh food and water. During the winter months, your dog will need to consume extra calories to stay warm.

So you may want to consider feeding him a larger portion of a good quality kibble. If in doubt, check with your veterinarian on a recommended portion.

It is a good idea to purchase a water bowl heater from a pet store or farm supply store to keep your pet’s water bowl from freezing over.

Change the water frequently, because no one would want to drink nasty, dirty water. Not to mention it is unhealthy.

Keep check on your pet and watch for abnormal behavior that may be warning you that he is getting too cold. Animals can get frostbite just like people. The ears, nose, and paws are particularly susceptible.

Winter brings out other dangers, like antifreeze. Antifreeze poisoning is very common and almost always fatal.

Antifreeze can be ingested by your dog drinking from a puddle containing the poison or simply by licking his paw after walking through the liquid. Be sure to promptly clean up any spills.

The bottom line is to use common sense. Take wind chill into account. This can drop the temperature ten degrees or more.

Watch for changes in your dog. If it gets extremely cold, think about bringing him in for the night.

If you don’t want Fido on the living room carpet, let him sleep in a prepared garage or basement. Remember, every dog deserves to be treated like a show dog.

Tony Barker, The BARKer Shop