During the winter months, some kind of sleeping pallet is essential to keep dogs from lying on cold, damp concrete floors. Place the pallet in the warmest, most draft- free spot in the dog crate.
Fiberglass reinforced plastic sleeping pallets (2x4') are easy to clean and sanitize. The smooth coating resists stains, scratches and wear, and has no place for bacteria and urine to collect. Wooden pallets can also be used. They are basically a box placed against the wall and are fairly simple and inexpensive to build. The Purina Pet Care Center suggests constructing them of waterproof 1/2" plywood so they can stand years of scrubbing and disinfecting. The design of these pallets depends upon the requirements of your dog crate. Studies at the Purina Pet Care Center show thata pallet that is 54" long and 27" wide provides ample room for two 50-60-pound dogs. The total height of 8" works well.
When doghouses are used, raise them a few inches off the ground to prevent moisture from getting in. Shield this elevated area with boards to prevent winds from gusting under the doghouse. Protect the dog from winter winds by having the doghouse door face east or south, and be certain that the doorway is covered with a baffle or a canvas flap. Bedding will provide additional warmth, but it does require special attention. A bag made of ticking stuffed with shredded newspapers, straw, cedar or pine shavings can be used. If dogs tear up these bags, the bedding material can be used without the bag. In either case, the bedding should be kept clean. The bag should be emptied, washed and renewed with fresh stuffing material or the bedding material replaced frequently. It is also important to check the bedding to be certain it is not wet. When the dog comes in from the rain or snow, the bedding will absorb the moisture; and in cold weather it may not dry out. Because of the possibility of adult fleas lying quiescent in a cocoon for several months, spray the sleeping area to aid in year-round flea control.
When cleaning concrete runs with a hose is impractical in very cold weather, use a scraper and shovel to remove droppings. Gravel or dirt runs require special care. Dogs usually dig holes and create low places in dirt and gravel where puddles may form when it rains or when snow melts. These low spots should be raked to keep the area smooth. Droppings are more difficult to pick up from a gravel run. No matter what type surface is used, droppings should be picked up daily. Although rodents and insects are not as prevalent during the winter as they are in summer, a program of pest control should be maintained throughout the year.
Although it is important the year-round, be certain the dogs are vaccinated and wormed before the winter months. The stress of cold is even greater on a dog with parasites or poor health problems. Constant exposure to moisture caused by rain, snow or mud can irritate a dog's feet by causing skin damage and infection from bacteria and fungi. Providing a dry place for the dog to walk should help solve this problem. Kennel runs should be kept free of snow. A walk area around a doghouse might be made of concrete or gravel.
Dogs' paw pads should be checked regularly during the winter months. Packed snow or caked mud should be removed from between a dog's toes where moisture can be trapped and cause sore spots. Salt and other de-icers spread on roads and sidewalks may also irritate the pads and cause them to crack and bleed. If paw pads are damaged, a veterinarian should be consulted for the proper treatment. A wintertime threat to a dog's safety is antifreeze which contains ethylene glycol. Many dogs are attracted to its sweet taste and lap it up when it is not properly disposed of. Containers should be securely closed and stored where it is inaccessible. Old antifreeze should be disposed of properly and promptly. All cases of antifreeze poisoning require immediate treatment by a veterinarian.
Sometimes a dog may accidently be exposed to a long period of extreme cold and may suffer frostbite. Puppies, geriatric dogs, ill dogs or those who are hungry or fatigued are most at risk.
Frostbite in dogs occurs most frequently on the ears, tail, scrotum and feet. Signs of frostbite are:
Rushed and reddened tissues
White or grayish tissues
Evidence of shock
Scaliness of skin
Possible sloughing of surface tissue
Frozen tissues should never be rubbed or massaged. Self-mutilation of the area should be prevented.
Prompt veterinary treatment is needed. If this is not possible, the affected area should be warmed rapidly by immersing in warm water (do not use hot water) or by using warm moist towels that are changed frequently. As soon as the affected tissues become flushed, discontinue warming. Gently dry the affected tissues, lightly bandage with a clean, dry, non-adhering bandage. Any animal who has suffered frostbite should be protected from further exposure to the cold. Frostbitten tissues are more susceptible to repeated freezing. Frostbite seldom occurs in dogs that are healthy and well-nourished. It is critical that dogs exposed to low environmental temperatures for long periods of time be fed adequate amounts of food to enable them to produce enough body heat to maintain normal temperature.
Please visit the Dog First Aid Department of our Pro Shop.