Dr. Margaret King
Special to The Sun
Q: We adopted a puppy this spring and he is very hairy. We think Kaci may be part Husky and something. He comes in the house and plays with the kids on really hot days, but I am wondering about this winter. Where should he stay? He is really hairy and sheds a lot in the house. Will he be all right outside all the time since he has so much hair?
A: Generally if it is too cold for you to be comfortable outside in the cold, then it is also too cold for him. A dog house that he can use to get in out of the elements will help, but he should still be inside when the weather dips around the freezing point. This is especially true when there is moisture, whether rain, sleet or snow. His body will be somewhat insulated by his heavy coat but his feet and pads are not. Actually, neither is his body if his hair gets wet.
When he is wet, he needs to be protected from drafts in an area where he can seek warmth. Sometimes a good thick bed in the garage can be used. When the cold really moved in, he might need to move in to the utility or other cooler area of the house.
One way to cut down on his shedding is to brush him frequently. Your children can learn how to do this also and help. He will shed more in the spring and fall when he is changing from a summer to a winter coat and vice versa. Shedding in the middle of the winter is usually somewhat less.
Just walking on ice or snow can be painful to him and cause injury to his feet. The ice packs up between his toes and can cause tissue damage as well as cuts and bruises. Even more dangerous is him walking on pavement that has been salted to melt the ice. If this happens, you should rinse and dry the bottoms of his paws to prevent irritation. Coating his paws with Vaseline can help if used before a walk or a romp in the snow.
If snow covers every surface and he is prone to wander if outside, he may actually lose his scent trail. If this happens, he may have trouble getting home so keep him on a leash for walks outside his yard.
In extremely cold weather, animals can get frostbite, especially of the ears, tail and feet. Signs of frostbite would be pale, cool skin on ear edges, feet or other exposed areas. Seek immediate medical help if you notice any of these signs.
One real problem we can create is keeping him in a warm house where he gets acclimated and then putting him outside in the cold weather for an extended period of time. Shorter times outside would be better if he gets used to being in the house.
Monitor his water closely if he is outside so that if it freezes you can change it often. If he is in a dog house outside, be sure there is a flap over the doors he can hold his body heat in.
As we move toward winter, be aware of the dangers of him drinking antifreeze. It is deadly and tastes sweet so the taste is appealing to him. Check where the car is parked if he is in the garage overnight. If antifreeze is added to the car, and any at all spilled, cover it in cat litter and clean it up immediately.
Dogs are “pack” animals and bond quickly with you and your family as the “pack.” With good training and coat maintenance, maybe a shave down in the summer, he would like to be right there with you by your side wherever you are.
DR. M. MARGARET KING, a longtime Edmond veterinarian, is a guest columnist. If you have any questions for her, email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.