We have a sad St. Bernard in our house.
We had mishap on Monday night, sometime around midnight Winston got left outside, by accident, and was discovered around 4:30 a.m. when the baby woke up. It was chilly out there, about -15 °C (that’s 5 °F if you’re America). I feel terrible just remembering it as I write this down. I have never seen him more happy to see me, ever. Nor have I ever seen him so mopey.
St. Bernard’s are not known for their aversion to the cold; they are mountain dogs after all. Some of his favourite pastimes include making snow angels and barking at snowmen. But he’s a short hair, and minus 15 is minus 15. He spent the next hour shivering under the covers with me. I’m not sure if he was more upset over the cold or being left alone outside in the dark for hours. Either way, he’s still mopey.
According to our vet pets are sensitive to severe cold. Just like people, frostbite and hypothermia are concerns and the skin of their paw pads, ears and noses is easily susceptible to damage. Our vet said to keep an eye on his paws and ears for discolouration or flaking/sloughing of the skin which would indicate frostbite.
- Know your pet. All pets have different tolerance for cold weather. Dogs with arthritis or diabetes may be more susceptible to the cold, know your pet and have a safe winter.
- Shelter is important. If your pet spends a lot of time outside provide a warm dry shelter with access to fresh water (use a heather water bowl or change the water frequently). Raise the floor off the ground and line it with straw or cedar shavings. Waterproof burlap or heavy plastic makes a good door. Don’t use heat lamps or space heaters for risk of fire.
- Stay on leash. Be careful in snow storms, dogs can become lost easily in low visibility.
- Avoid water. Frozen ponds and rivers can be very dangerous. Unstable ice can easily break under a dog’s weight.
- Be careful of antifreeze. It’s a deadly poison and has a sweet smell that can attract animals and children.
- Road salt can be painful for dogs. Try to avoid sidewalks and roads which have been heavily salted, or encourage your dog to walk on the snowbanks.
- Ingesting a lot of salt can be dangerous. Clean your dogs paws and legs well after a walk to remove excess salt or chemicals.
- Cars are like refrigerators; they can hold in the cold. Don’t leave your pets in your car.
- Bundle up. If your dog is small enough, a sweater or booties, no matter how silly it may look, will help him be comfortable on long walks.
- Home is where the heart is. If the weather is terrible, just stay inside. One missed walk won’t hurt anyone.