Arf Arf...Translates To...Brrr!

As temperatures drop and snow falls in some places, it's time to winterize your pets in the same way you'd attend to your car or your home. While puppies don't need different tires or another coat of insulation, they do need some different care in winter than the rest of the year.

- Bring them in. Most breeds of dogs are not designed for staying outside. Unless you have an arctic breed, choose to either bring them in more often to warm up or let them stay in for the winter. A good rule: if you're uncomfortable, they're uncomfortable.

- Or make sure they're comfortable outside. Turn their dog house away from the wind. Don't leave blankets or towels out where they can get wet. Sleeping on these will make your puppies colder, not warmer. Make sure they have plenty of water and that it doesn't ice up.

- Recognize the signs of hypothermia: shivering, enlarged pupils, pale or blue gums, decreased heart rate. If you have a small or short-haired pet, consider boots and a coat. (I don't feel it necessary to "dress" my girls up, but yours might need something for extra warmth.)

- Stay active, but don't overdo it. Dogs love to try and keep up with everything you do, but in cold weather that becomes more difficult. You know how hard it is to breathe in cold air - imagine what's it's like for a dog! Keep them active with short walks and lots of indoor games like throwing a ball down a long hallway.

- Beware of outdoor chemicals. You might not think about it, but antifreeze, sidewalk salt and gas from the snow blower can all be dangerous to a dog. Either keep them out of those areas altogether or clean their paws and faces completely before they come inside.

- Keep plenty of towels handy. Whenever they come inside or get done with a bath, dry your dogs extra-thoroughly. A dog with a cold is probably worse than a husband with a cold.

- Alleviate dry, itchy skin. Brush your dog regularly to distribute their natural oils and remove tangles. Ask your vet about special shampoos and treatments if the problem becomes serious.

- Don't overfeed. The tendency during the winter months is to snack and change feeding schedules. Since your dogs are likely to be inside and more sedentary, overfeeding will cause serious health problems. Extra food can lead to obesity and treats from holiday meals can wreak havoc on their digestive systems.

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