Just as we care for ourselves differently at different times of the year, we should also be sensitive to our dog's needs during colder and warmer weather conditions, or at particular times like festivals and celebrations.
Cold weather care
- Well-nourished dogs are better prepared to withstand the rigours of winter, particularly if they are kept outdoors. Outdoor dogs normally need more food to generate enough energy to cope with the cold. Provide your pet with fresh water several times during the day if freezing is an issue. Electrically heated water bowls are available, mostly in counties with very cold winters, but should still be monitored regularly.
- An outdoor dog's shelter should be insulated, elevated, protected from prevailing winds and watertight. The shelter should be small enough to preserve the dog's body heat.
- Dogs living primarily indoors may require less food to maintain a good body condition than dogs that spend a lot of time outside. Short-haired dogs, older dogs and dogs with health problems may need the protective warmth of a dog jacket when they go outside.
- Once you've been out in the cold with your dog, take care to remove any packed snow or ice from between the toes of the paw pads and wipe the paws thoroughly, otherwise moisture can be trapped and cause sores. Salt and other de-icers spread on footpaths and roads may also irritate the pads and cause bleeding.
- Because of its sweet taste, dogs are attracted to antifreeze and lap it up when it's not properly disposed of. Antifreeze is highly toxic and frequently fatal if ingested, so store it out of reach. If by any chance your pet does come into contact with the liquid, go straight to your vet.
- If you suspect that your dog has frostbite, do not rub any frozen tissue as that will cause additional tissue damage. Again, just go straight to your vet.
Warm weather care
- As temperatures soar, dogs become more vulnerable to heat stress. Maintaining a comfortable environment for your dog is important, so provide plenty of cool, fresh water to help keep your dog cool throughout the summer.
- If you go on a journey, remember to take water along and also a towel. A wet towel is an effective way of cooling your dog down. Avoid travelling during the hottest part of the day.
- NEVER, ever leave your dog in the car. Confinement in a car or any other poorly ventilated enclosure can be fatal, and will leave owners liable to prosecution. One study reports that when the outside temperature is 26ºC /78ºF, the inside of a car will reach 32ºC /90ºF in five minutes, and 43ºC /110ºF in 25 minutes! Even a few minutes is too long, so think about your journey and avoid taking your dog at all if the weather is hot.
- Avoid exercising your dog too much during hot days or warm, humid nights. The best time to exercise is either early in the morning before sunrise, or late in the evening after the sun goes down. This is particularly important for dogs with thick, heavy coats: do not take them out in the middle of the day. Avoid vigorous exercise for all dogs in hot weather.
- Exposed areas, such as the nose and ears, can be susceptible to sunburn, and dogs that have recently had their coats trimmed short are particularly vulnerable to burning as well as heat stress. Pet sun creams are available.
- Heatstroke can develop rapidly with exposure to high temperatures, humidity and poor ventilation. Symptoms include panting, a staring or anxious expression, failure to respond to commands, warm, dry skin, extremely high temperature, dehydration, rapid heartbeat and collapse. Puppies and geriatric dogs tend to be more susceptible to the condition, as do adult dogs recently moved from a cooler climate, dogs with thick, heavy coats, or dogs with an existing cardiovascular or respiratory condition. Certain breeds with narrow airways, such as bulldogs, are particularly prone to heat stress. With any form of heat stress, prompt veterinary attention is vital to deal with potential complications.
Outdoor events and festivals can be a lot of fun for you and your dog, and many fairs and shows specifically provide good facilities for dog owners. But do remember that busy, noisy events can also be unsettling for a dog, with so many colours, sights, sounds and other dogs competing for attention. Consider carefully if this is the right sort of environment for your dog. County and agricultural shows have good provisions. Music festivals often don't. And we all know that fireworks can be particularly upsetting. Your dog should stay indoors on Guy Fawkes' Night, even if you don't. Discuss with your vet how to minimise upset to your dog on such occasions.