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Three Dog Night
It will be a co~o~o~ld night tonight. The lows will be in the “three to four dog range” with the windsreaching up to one or more.
As reported in the Aleutian Islands
The Eskimo tribes of Alaska determine temperature based upon how many dogs they bring in to cuddle within order to stay warm throughout the night. The Eskimos cherished their dogs as much as they did each other. They pioneered the use of dog teams, as a means of motivation in some of the harshest and foulest winter weather. Keeping their dogs running (literally) in the wintertime was a necessity of life. So, if you really want to know how to take care of your dogs for the winter, then you take them to an Eskimo for a winter tune-up.
Tune-up your radio, and heed the “Call of the Wild” or domestic in our case.
If our English Setters spend the majority of their time outside or live in Wisconsin then consider the following for a warmer, more comfortable, and safer winter season:
· A house that is insulated and free of drafts is necessary. It should be big enough for them to stand, turn-a-round in, and lay comfortably but small enough for their body heat to assist in keeping room temperature warm. Sleeping in the garage is not enough. They deserve their own house.
· The opening should be covered with a flap that allows ease of entry and exit. Using an old braided rug or heavy burlap can act as a good insulated door. The opening should be turned away from the wind preventing snow and ice build-up or cold air drafts.
· Their bed should be an insulator itself. Their body should heat the air space between the bedding material. It should also wick away the moisture that they might bring in from outside. Leaves or old clothing is not a good idea. These articles will soak up moisture and freeze. Check their bed regularly. Don’t put their beds directly on a floor. Make sure there is an air space between the bed they sleep on and the floor underneath them.
· When the wind chill drops the temperature considerably, then bring them in. A good ‘rule of thumb’ should be; if you won’t stay out then neither should they.
· They need water. Make sure their water is not frozen. You might want to purchase bowls that have heaters to keep it from freezing. (There are other considerations with these bowls, i.e. electrical cords.) DO NOT PUT ANYTHING IN WATER TO LOWER ITS FREEZING POINT.
· To keep warm, they will burn more calories, so you might consider increasing their caloric intake. Increasing their food consumption or going to a more calorie-enriched food could address this issue. If cold weather restricts their exercise, then you should consider reducing their caloric intake to avoid an increase in excessive weight. ( I should heed my own advice.)
· Our guys and girls can suffer from frostbite and hypothermia, even in early winter. Frostbite is most common on their paws and their ears. Early signs of frostbite do not readily appear. Signs to watch for are swollen paws or thickening of the leather on the ears and/or them fussing with the frost bitten area. The skin might appear reddish gray white, scaly, and peeling. If this happens, then seek veterinary care immediately. Wrap them in warm dry blankets and apply warm (NOT HOT) water bottle to the affected area to encourage blood flow. DO NOT RUB OR MASSAGE! If you observe that they are lethargic and not moving around as much as they normally would after being outside, then you can suspect hypothermia.
Follow the same procedure as you would with frostbite and get them to a veterinarian immediately. Hypothermia can be fatal.
· Good grooming practice is essential, more in the wintertime than the summertime. Matted coats are NOT good insulators. Remember that their hair is literally a coat that traps heat from their body that warms the air surrounding their body. Matted hair prevents this. If they are matted, don’t cut the mats out but strip them out. Cutting a mat out would be like me cutting a hole out of your best coat that you wear outside on the COLDEST days.
· Snowballs turn into iceballs. When they accumulate on their coats, especially when it is between their paws, it can be very painful. Have you ever had a stone bruise? They can get them also from the iceballs that get in-between their toes. They will try to bite the snowballs out of their coat and paws. They will chew their coat off or chew on their paws until they bleed. If enough snow accumulates on their coat, it can immobilize them. (I have had to go and carry my guys back numerous times because they got so bogged down with snowballs that they can’t go on any further. They literally quit.) Keep an eye on them!
Use warm water to melt the iceballs on their coats. Do not use HOT water. That would be just like the opposite of you sticking your turn to a frozen metal pole. Yes! . . . It takes longer to melt the iceballs with warm water but it is a lot more comfortable to them. We often forget that their body temperature is not the same as ours. Their body temperature is anywhere from 2-5 degrees higher than ours is. That’s a lot! It is a BIG difference and a BIG deal.
· A dry coat often raises its ugly head in the wintertime. Dry air increases the chances of this happening. A humidifier in the dogroom can reduce the chances. It also prevents a buildup of static electricity in their coat. They can get a shock out of it. If you have a English Setter that tends to be timid then this could compound the shyness. You can do a test for electricity. Turn off the light and let them walk across a carpeted room on a very cold night. You will literally see sparks flying. Humidity in the air reduces this considerably.
· Antifreeze is highly poisonous. It would be to them like candy is to a child. It is sweet tasting and smells good to them. It will shut down their ENTIRE system within a few days, resulting in death. Even a small amount will kill. It is not unusual for cars to overheat in the wintertime and the cars’ cooling system leak onto the ground and form an antifreeze puddle. That puddle has a lower freezing point and is attractive to them. THIS INCLUDES WASHER FLUIDS FOR WINDSHIELDS.
· Chemicals used to melt snow on sidewalks can irritate their paws. In some cases it can be absorbed into their system through their paws or they might lick it off. It is a good practice to get into the habit of wiping their feet with a WARM rag to clean their feet of any excessive chemical residue. If their paws look irritated or raw, apply a thin coat of petroleum jelly. They make commercial boots for dogs. We have a number of pairs that we use because it does get cold in Wisconsin. Once our guys get use to them, then they don’t mind them. Of course, the key is getting use to them. (Boots could be hard to find right now
because of the need in the search and rescue efforts at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.)
Excessive salt (sodium chloride) is also dangerous. Especially the absorption through their paws into their system.
· Cold weather can compromise health, especially chronic disease, such as heart and lung disease. Consult your veterinarian for comfortable ‘time outs’ for your area that you live in. Don’t stop using preventative flea and tick products if you live in area that does not receive freezing weather for extended periods of time. (My family in Mississippi uses flea and tick products year round on their dogs and their yard.)
If you need to bundle-up, so does your English Setter. If you are going for an extended time out, then get them a coat too. They get cold also! Even Burberry and Coach make coats for dogs. Use some common sense. Do not assume that just because they have a fur coat they don’t need assistance. They depend on you. When you prepare your home and family for the winter, don’t forget about our English Setters. Make it a ‘Three Dog Night’ because ‘one is the loneliest number’. Help them enjoy the season, ‘tis the season’ to be jolly! A Safe
and Happy New Year to our English Setters around the World.