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November 29, 2011 / Jackie H. Burns

Pet Care in Winter


Outdoor dogs need shelter in winter.  An ideal dog house does not have to be fancy.  But it should not drafty and should have a door that faces away from the prevailing wind direction.

The size of the dog house should fit the size of the dog that uses it.

The ideal dog house has enough room for its occupant to walk in turn around and lie down comfortably.   The dog house retains the pet’s body heat to keep the pet warm.  A small dog in a big dog house cannot stay warm because the dog’s body does not release sufficient heat to warm all of the air in the dog house.   I do know of small short-haired dogs that have died of exposure while sleeping in a nice dog house that was simply too big.

Dog houses may be bedded with cedar shavings or straw.  For dogs with sensitive skin or skin allergies, I recommend oat straw.  A deep loose layer of straw provides more insulation that a blanket.

People often ask me when to bring their pets in on very cold nights.  Generally, a healthy adult medium or large breed dog that has been acclimated to sleeping outside will do fine outdoors in his dog house unless the temperature gets below 20 degrees.

Small dogs, puppies and senior dogs or any dog unaccustomed to sleeping outside should be brought inside if the temperature is below freezing.


Dogs may need to consume extra calories in winter to stay warm, so be prepared to feed your dog 10 to 20 % more calories during winter.


Check to make sure your dog or cat has unfrozen drinking water during cold snaps.  When the mercury drops and stays below freezing for days, be prepared to provide drinking water several times daily.

Parasite Control

We have fleas in winter.  Really.  They can live on a nice warm dog all year ’round, though sometimes people forget this.   Warm days in winter can bring out mosquitoes, too, so don’t be tempted to slack off on your heartworm preventative.

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