Cold Weather Care of Dogs
Brought to you by: Purina Pro Plan Dog Food
Along with proper nutrition. several factors will help ensure the health and performance of dogs during the winter. Dogs of all ages should be in good body condition prior to and during winter months to withstand colder temperatures. Providing the special care your dogs need during severe cold may require extra work, but helping assure their well-being and comfort makes it well worth the effort.
Cold Weather Nutrition
Feeding a nutritionally complete and balanced diet is essential to maintain a dog satisfactorily during the cold weather. This will help ensure that the dog is getting the nutrition necessary for developing and maintaining haircoat and muscle, and providing energy for heat. Here are guidelines for cold-weather feeding: On the average, dogs require about 7.5 percent more food for each 10°F degree drop in temperature. One way to help ensure that dogs eat enough is to feed them twice a day. Keep in mind that some dogs will get diarrhea or other digestive problems when their food is changed or when intake is increased, unless it is done gradually over a period of 7 to 10 days.
Lactating bitches, growing pups, and hardworking dogs have high energy requirements under any conditions, but especially during cold weather.
Some fleshiness is desirable during periods of cold weather. Layers of fat insulation help reduce the radiation of heat from the dog's body surface.
If dogs are not eating enough to maintain good body condition, it may be advisable to encourage them to eat more by adding a small amount of meat, fat, or table scraps to their food.
Water Is Essential
During cold weather dogs should have fresh water available for at least several hours a day.
Adding warm water to a dry dog food diet also helps ensure that the dog's water intake is sufficient.
The photo to the right shows one type of non-freeze waterer that works satisfactorily at the Purina Pet Care Center. Similar waterers can be purchased at farm supply stores.
Cold Weather Comfort
Most breeds who have been acclimated to living outdoors may be kept outdoors during the winter, but they must have adequate shelter. Geriatric dogs (over eight years) need special attention, and, if possible, should be brought inside. Keeping dogs dry and protected from winter winds is essential.
Adequate insulation is necessary in both heated and unheated dog crates and doghouses in almost every climate. Your county extension service can supply recommended R-values for your area.
Good ventilation, without excessive cross drafts, is desirable. In winter, air should be exhausted from the ceiling to the floor to prevent warm air near the ceiling from being pulled out.
In unheated kennels, vents should be opened any time the outside temperature is warmer than the inside of the dog crates.
Bedding such as wood chips or straw (not recommended for young puppies who may be sensitive to the inhalation of dust and pieces of plant material) should be supplied, especially for short-haired breeds.
Many kennels have a problem with water lines and dog waterers freezing during the winter months when the kennel is not heated or sections of the water lines are exposed to below-freezing temperatures. Unless a source of heat is provided, some water lines leading into the kennel may have to be shut off and the waterers emptied regularly to prevent bursting during freezing weather. Electric heat tape or small electric water heaters offer economical solutions to this problem. Heat tape, insulation and water covering strips can usually be purchased in one package from hardware or farm stores. A thermostat can be used to turn the heat tape on and off, but this is not necessary. In most cases the additional cost of the thermostat will be more than the small amount of electricity saved. The tape is plugged into an electric outlet and requires a nominal amount of electricity to operate. Properly installed, an electric heat tape will last several winters, even when exposed to the weather.
A water warmer can be used for an individual dog waterer that serves several dogs. This is a small electrical device that has a built-in thermostat. It is plugged into an electric outlet and will usually maintain a water temperature of 10-15°F above freezing. Various types and sizes of electric water warmers can be purchased at most farm stores. Caution: All electrical wires and other devices should be protected with a guard securely placed around them so dogs cannot chew them. One-fourth inch hardware cloth is good protection. If dogs come in contact with an exposed wire, severe pain or death can result. Be certain to follow label directions carefully in installing and using any type of electrical device.
Kennels at the Purina Pet Care Center are heated. We prefer space heaters. but radiators and floor heating systems are also used with satisfactory results. If space heaters are used, they should not be located near the dogs. Floors with heat pipes or cables embedded in them dry quickly, but they have a tendency to produce more odors in poorly ventilated kennels. It is impossible to repair heating cables embedded in concrete. If this type of heating is used, the pipes or cables should be installed under only half of the floor to enable dogs to move to the cooler side if overheating should occur.
Heating pads or heat lamps can also provide extra warmth in unheated kennels. Many types of heating pads are available, but no matter which type is used, be sure that puppies and dogs are able to move away from the pad or lamp if it gets too warm. Even in heated kennels, newborn puppies often need more warmth than their dams can supply in the winter. By using heating pads and heat lamps in whelping boxes, we try to keep the puppies' area at 95°F during the first week, 90°F during the second week, and 85°F during the third week.