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Weather matters when you bring home a pet, here's why

Digital writers

Tuesday, October 10, 2017, 8:00 AM - Like owner, like pet, you bet! While some of us are big winter fans, there are dog breeds that can’t wait until the mercury drops and the snow flies.

And you can bet it’s not the Chihuahua or Whippet! There are few breeds that love the cold as much as heavy-coated breeds like the Siberian Husky, Tibetan Mastiff, Bernese Mountain Dog and German Shepherd but, on the other hand, they aren’t so chill in super hot environments.

The changing seasons can be riotous fun for many of our four-legged friends, but it can be challenging for others, just like their owners. Most dogs with a normal body coat do well in the same types of temperatures that humans do, but when the weather is in the extremes, the same precautions for them are needed as for us, says Dr. Amy Stone, a veterinarian and professor of veterinary medicine.

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Many people assume that because dogs and cats have fur, they can adapt easily to cold. That’s not necessarily the case. Few of us would enjoy cold weather in a thin jacket and it is the same for breeds with thin coats, like greyhounds and small breeds - snow is generally a no-go. They do not have an undercoat and once the wintry weather rolls around, they tend to get very cold, says Stone. Their extremities (paws, ears, and tails) have very little insulation. Be sure they do not go out without protective clothing or for extended periods.

Some dogs’ shapes and makes are game-changers when it comes to the weather. Short dogs like Dachshunds and Basset Hounds can get the shivers pretty quickly when their bald bellies are dragging in the snow, and they can quickly become tired making their way through deep snow. And then there are the painful snowballs that are sure to build up on the fluffy hair on the pads of spaniels and collies.

According to Dr. Michele Forbes, the weather transition that most affects pets is cold to warm, especially for flat-faced dogs (brachycephalic) or animals who have chronic medical conditions. “A quick transition from cold weather to a warm/hot and especially humid weather can be stressful and cause respiratory complications.”

Extra care should be taken when doing activities in suddenly warm weather. “It is helpful to gently transition a dog or cat to outside activity in hot and/or humid weather depending on age, health status, breed, and level of fitness,” says Forbes, of ccahpetvet.com.

Flat-faced dogs do not tolerate the heat well because they do not pant effectively enough to decrease their body temperature. Heat stroke is possible in any dog, so monitoring them if exercising in the heat is critical - brachycephalic dogs, like Pugs and Bulldogs, especially need to be monitored in the heat, even when not moving! Additionally no dog should be left alone in a car for any length of time in the heat, not even if it’s parked in the shade, not even with the AC running.

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According to dog trainer Mikkel Becker, of fearfreepets.com, changing seasons bring changes in activity levels for dogs and their humans. Labradors can easily become flab-rador retrievers! “Ensure all dogs still get exercise and that their weight stays in check. Labs love to eat and they can easily pack on the pounds when not watched diligently with their portion sizes and the provision of ongoing activities.”

German Shepherds are highly intelligent and enjoy activities with their families. Keeping their body and brain engaged is essential throughout the changing seasons. Try food puzzles and regular trick training sessions to harness your bond and build your communication, she recommends.

Golden Retrievers are often social and enjoy time with family and friends. Giving these dogs your ongoing attention and opportunity for social time is important year round. Beagles can get easily bored and distressed if not given enough structure and predictability in their day. So if the weather doesn’t allow for the daily walk, then be sure to engage their noses.

Becker recommends giving them a modified ‘hunt’ with their nose by scattering kibble out in a flat area (the carpet, a hard floor, an outdoor area if not too cold) to encourage them to use their nose to search out the hidden kibble or treats. “Beagles are big on using their nose and this gives them an engaging way to do so.”

Meanwhile, if you’re thinking of getting a dog, do your research. When considering the type of dog, the climate of the area and activities that the dog is going to be doing should be taken into account. Your veterinarian can help to determine what might be the best options to fit your geographic area and your lifestyle.

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