Cold Front for Dogs

Owners across the nation share their secrets to keeping dogs warm in winter.

By | Posted: Mon Dec 30 00:00:00 PST 2002

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Chicago, Illinois: Prepare for Winter Dangers
In the Windy City, cold, wet weather dampens many dogs' enthusiasm for the outdoors. Vanya, a Bichon Frise owned by David and Sharon Turrentine, spends a lot of time in the yard despite being an inside dog. When it's really cold or wet, he is reluctant to go out by himself.

But with the Turrentines at his side and with the proper attire, Vanya happily ventures out for long walks. "My wife buys everything for him: jackets, raincoats, fleece jackets, boots, fleece boots with Velcro straps, waterproof boots," David Turrentine said. The boots are especially important because they protect Vanya's paws from the ice, salt and de-icing chemicals common on Chicago streets. "We read somewhere that salt can really burn a dog's paws, so he's got several pairs."

Another danger is antifreeze poisoning. "I'm very careful not to let him near any wet-looking spots on driveways or the street, especially those he looks interested in, since antifreeze is so sweet-smelling and attractive to dogs," Sharon Turrentine said.

Manhattan, New York: Protect Your Dog's Feet
In Manhattan, winter is frigid but few dogs live outside, and any respectable dog wouldn't be caught on the streets without the latest fashionable attire. Darkness is less a factor because the streets are well lighted. But, as in Chicago, ice, salt and commercial-de-icers are particularly hard on the paws of those well-dressed pooches.

Andrea Arden, a dog trainer, author and cable TV show host, takes special care of her dogs' paws in winter. Oliver and Maggie, her two 5-year-old Gordon Setters, and Lena, her 3-year-old Doberman Pinscher, were trained to wear boots outside.

"My first Gordon Setter once stopped in the middle of our walk and started yelping in pain [when salt burned its paws]," Arden said. Dogs can also be poisoned by licking salt and de-icers off their feet.

For owners whose dogs don't wear boots, Dr. Pruyn recommended keeping hair between the dogs' toes well groomed and putting petroleum jelly on their foot pads to keep ice crystals from bonding to the hair. Ice crystals can cause dogs' delicate feet to become red, swollen and irritated. Also, salt and commercial deicers cause stomach distress if dogs lick it off their paws.

But some dogs won' t immediately accept dog boots. "They'll do that 'prancing' thing, then try to bite the boots off," Arden said. She suggested preparing your dog by putting on one boot, giving a piece of food, taking the boot off, putting on another boot, giving another piece of food, and so forth until the dog is used to the boots. Arden also keeps a box of baby wipes by the door for "bootless" walks. "That way I can wipe their feet as soon as we get in the door."

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