Highlands is a well known “dog friendly” town. It is not unusual to go to the shops on Main Street in Highlands and meet their “shop dog”. We have our own “office dog” here at Meadows Mountain Realty. In addition, many of the rental homes in the area are pet friendly and it is possible you will want to travel with your pet to visit our great town in the winter.
Winter is a wonderful, beautiful time of year, especially up here on the Highlands-Cashiers Plateau, but it can also be a dangerous time of year for your pets. We all love our pets and want to be responsible pet owners. Here are a few tips to help you care for your pet during cold winter weather.
BEFORE DURING AND AFTER WALKS
Most people think their dogs love being out in the snow. In reality, dogs love being anywhere their people are playing. Even brief exposure in sub zero weather dogs and cats may get frost bite on their nose, ears and paws. If the skin appears red, grey or whitish or starts to peel off, it could be frostbite. If you think your pet has frostbite, take it to a warm place and start to thaw out the areas of frostbite by using warm moist towels. Change the towel often to keep warm (not hot), keep this up until the area becomes flushed. Contact your veterinarian for further care and instructions.
Winter time is the time when most pet owners report their dogs missing. Often, they will panic during snow storms and run away. Canines use their sense of smell as a “homing” or GPS devise and when there is ice and/or snow on the ground they often lose their scent and become lost. Another contributing factor is the decreased time of daylight in the winter so please make sure your dog is always on a leash when not in a fully fenced yard and always make sure they wear proper identification at all times.
With some basic knowledge and a few preparations you and your pet can enjoy the beauty of the mountain winter and remain safe and well.
A great tip is to keep a bowl of warm water and old towels by the door to wash and dry your dog’s paws when they enter your home after a walk. It’s good to rinse their paws because the lime rock salt and calcium chloride salt used to melt snow and ice can irritated the foot pads and cause vomiting and diarrhea when licked. Many de-icing and ice-melting products are toxic. Read the labels of any products you use and store in air tight containers. Dunking the paws will also dissolve ice and remove mud.
To help protect dry sensitive paws, coat them with a bit of cooking spray before walks in the cold weather. During deep snows, shovel out a potty spot for your dog. Be extra careful with sick or older dogs since they are more sensitive to the cold weather. For any dog sensitive to the cold due to age, illness or breed type, take him outdoors only for potty breaks.
Coats and booties can be very helpful to keep your dog warm. Short haired breeds or elderly dogs benefit from wearing a coat or sweater. Fit these properly being sure to cover from the base of the tail on the top to the belly underneath.
Never shave your dog down to the skin in winter. When you bathe your dog, completely dry him before taking him out for a walk. A dog with a thick coat needs to be groomed in the cold weather. The fur can get wet and matted making an irritant. Clean fur lofts holds air in a manner similar to layering clothing, keeping your animal warm.
Brush your dog regularly and vigorously. The air in most homes becomes dry when we use heat sources, makes their skin and fur dry. Brushing improves circulation. This is also a time to give your pet fatty acid supplements during the winter. If your dog engages in a lot of outdoor activities, he will burn up more energy and calories so you will need to increase his food supply to help keep his coat thick and healthy.
Lastly, be mindful of your pets’ water bowl. Make sure they have plenty of fresh water to drink. If you keep a bowl outside, be sure to change the water many times daily to keep from freezing.