Particularly our friends on the East Coast and in the Midwest know that blizzards are nothing at which to scoff. Winter Storm “Hercules” swept across the country at the beginning of January and dropped anywhere between 0.5” on the Kansas City Airport to a staggering 23.8” on Boxford, Massachusetts.
With blackouts, bursting pipes and whiteout conditions, blizzard season brings many dangers for us and also for our pets. How can we best prepare for these situations and deal with them when they come?
Before the Storm
As with anything, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. When we enter into these early months, when blizzards are most likely to strike, we should be prepared for harsh weather.
- Food- As with humans, having a healthy stock of extra food for your four-legged friends can help avert disaster if you’re snowed in. Luckily, most dog food is non-perishable. Put dog food into airtight containers to lengthen its life.
- Water- When gathering bottled water to have on hand in case you are snowed in or have a pipe burst, don’t forget to calculate in how much your pups will need. You’ve probably seen how bottled water flies off the shelves right before a storm. You might want to amass a good stockpile before the storm so you don’t need to fight your neighbors at the store.
- Warmth- Dog beds should be indoors, where they will be warm. If you must keep your dogs in the garage, be sure to give them a warm dog bed and, if necessary, a space heater positioned away from anything flammable.
- Doggie Clothes- Some dogs, especially puppies or smaller dogs with poor circulation, might benefit from a doggie parka. In extreme weather, even some bigger dogs could use doggie boots to protect their pads from frostbite and harsh salt.
- Outdoors- When letting your dog out into the cold, there are a couple of things you should prepare for in advance. One is whether or not your yard is still effectively fenced: a couple of feet of packed snow to boost them is all some dogs need to be able to make the jump over a fence. A wireless dog fence can be a good alternative, especially for owners with a large property. Another thing to consider is whether or not you’ve put down salt to avoid a buildup of dangerous ice on walkways.
- Puppy Pads- Again, puppies or smaller dogs might be better off staying indoors. Stock up on puppy pads if you think that taking the dogs out to use the restroom will be problematic.
During the Storm
- Venturing Outside- It will almost certainly be a judgment call when it comes to letting your dog outside during a storm. Some breeds, like Swiss Mountain Dogs or Malamutes, will revel in the chance to play in the snow. Others, like Rat Terriers, will not. If you didn’t set up a wireless fence, you might need to keep your dog on a leash when venturing outside.
- Hazards- Be advised that there are some dangers waiting in a snowy yard. Icicles and packed ice on the roof can fall, icy conditions can be prohibitively slippery (especially for older dogs), and smaller dogs can get stuck in large amounts of powdery snow. Especially for longer-haired breeds, snow and ice can build up on the hair between their toes, which can be painful, so keep an eye on that as well.
- Exercise-Most dogs will get stir-crazy even faster than humans. Be sure to play with your dog to keep him entertained and prevent any frustrated, destructive behavior. Even if you don’t have a ton of space, there are still plenty of games you can play to engage everybody.
- You can also take the time to work on behavioral issues with games or train him with some new tricks. Not only will you be making the most of your time, you’ll also ensure he’s getting adequate exercise.
Winter storms and dogs can be a bad mix if you haven’t prepared. But with a game plan, a good attitude and some supplies, you’ll survive the cold with confidence and happy dogs.