My favorite part of October in Texas is when cold weather finally sets in.
I know it’s not cold like the northern part of the U.S., but for Texans, any day we don’t turn on the air conditioning is considered cold.
My mastiffs love the cold weather, too. Finally, they can romp around and frolic for more than 30 minutes without heat exhaustion setting in.
Cold weather requires us to take some extra precautions with our pets.
While our first freeze might not be in the near future, it’s never too early to prepare.
If your dog stays outside, have a dog house or protected shelter that faces away from the north wind.
Fill the shelter with straw or hay to help contain body heat. This practice has been brought in to question as it often provides a haven for mice as well, but there’s not an inexpensive, nontoxic filler that works as well to help a dog retain warmth.
It’s a good idea to keep a blanket or bed inside the shelter for comfort.
Keep the shelter off the ground to provide additional warmth. A shipping pallet set on bricks provides insulation against the cold ground; add trash bags on top of the bricks for additional insulation for the dog house.
Outdoor water containers need to be kept off the ground and out of the wind if possible.
If you line the inside of the container with petroleum jelly, any ice that forms will slide out when you change the water each day. Reapply petroleum jelly as needed.
A clean, fluffy coat helps a dog stay warm, so increase brushing in the winter to remove old fur.
Increase their food intake by 15 percent and feed them smaller meals instead of one or two large meals each day.
This will help your outdoor dog gain the extra weight needed to stay warm and healthy all winter.
Tips for Indoor dogs
For indoor dogs, one concern we see fairly often in our clients is dry skin from being in the heat.
Talk to your vet about the benefits of a vitamin E supplement or fish oil if your dog has this problem.
Skipping your dog’s usual bathing routine is a good way to observe changes in their body.
Most internal changes can manifest in their skin and fur if you bathe your dogs every month. Try skipping a month and see if you notice anything different.
There will be a few happy pups out there and a few stinky ones, but sometimes the payoff is worth the aroma.
If your indoor dogs are less active in the winter months, reduce their food intake to keep an eye on their weight. But reduce it slowly so as not to alarm them.
Talk to your vet before doing anything drastic.
Let me know what you do to prepare for winter and we will share your tips in future columns.
Stay warm Central Texas.
Kathryn Leisinger is the “Dean of Wags” for School of Wags, a nonprofit large dog rescue and training organization based in Harker Heights.