Ah, the great outdoors - a nice place to spend time, a fun place to play and, if you're a dog, a place to conduct bathroom duty. But, it is not the place for a pit bull to live. "Backyard" pit bulls are robbed of the attention they crave and put at great risk of being stolen. They are also exposed to weather elements that they are not equipped handle. Every year, news stories report the deadly effects weather can have on pit bulls.
Bully breeds have thin, short-haired coats that do not offer much protection against the cold. They are also prone to skin issues which are often exacerbated by weather elements. Exposure to the cold will lead to hypothermia, frostbite and death! A sign of frostbite is skin/tissue turning a bright red color, followed by a pale color, and then a black color. A symptom of hypothermia is low body temperature. Dogs with low body temperature will shiver and/or be weak. If you suspect that your dog is suffering hypothermia and/or frostbite, contact your veterinarian and seek medical attention immediately!
What can you do to protect your pit bull?
If it's too cold for you to stand outside without wearing your winter coat, then it is too cold for your pit bull to be outside without his! Bully breeds need more protection from the cold than their short-haired coats. There are many sweater and coat options available online and at local pet supply stores. Not only will your pit bull look fashionable, she will be kept much warmer.
Don't forget about foot protection. Walking in the cold can be very uncomfortable. Not only does exposure to ice and snow hurt, unprotected footpads can get frostbite. The salt used to melt snow is a danger to delicate footpads. Make sure you wash and dry or rub the salt off your dog's feet to avoid irritation. There are boot/bootie options that will protect your pit bull's feet and make a leash walk on a winter day safe and comfortable!
Although it is sweet-tasting, antifreeze is extremely toxic to pets. Clean up any leakage or spills without allowing your pit bull access to it. If your dog ingests antifreeze contact your veterinarian immediately!
A cozy fire can be relaxing to sit in front of and a source of warmth in the winter months, be sure you have a fireplace screen in place to protect your pets.
Taking your pit bull in the car can be fun, but remember that leaving a dog unattended in a car leaves them open to being stolen and to the cold outside. Leave them warm and safe inside the house; they will give you a warm welcome when you get home.
If your pit bull suffers from arthritis, cold weather will aggravate the condition. Talk with your veterinarian about winter treatment options.
PBRC does not recommend or condone that pit bulls live outside at any time of the year, but if you ABSOLUTELY can't bring your pit bull inside, here are some things that can be done to keep an "outside dog" comfortable and safe:
- House the dog in the basement or garage. If these areas are unheated, use a crate that is covered in blankets (leave the opening uncovered), blankets on the floor and/ or a doghouse (as described below). Be sure not to start your car in a garage where a dog is housed and thoroughly clean the area of any potential chemical hazards.
- Do NOT use metal water dishes. A dog's tongue can actually stick to frozen metal! A good alternative to metal bowls are plastic and even better is a self-heated water bowl. It is very important that an outside dog have access to plenty of water that is not frozen. Keeping warm burns a lot of calories, make sure to feed a good quality diet and plenty of it.
- A dog house should be provided. It should be well built and offer leak-free protection. The house should be large enough for the dog to stand up and turn around comfortably, the floor should be raised from the ground and the opening should face away from the wind. You can line the bottom of the house with carpet and straw. Be sure to change this bedding frequently. Hang a blanket over the door to keep out drafts.
Enjoy the wonders of the winter season and keep your pit bull safe and happy!
(c) 2007, Chris Cook