Pet Lover Geek

From The Vault: Winter Pet Safety (part 1)

October 29, 2021 Lorien Clemens Season 6 Episode 18
From The Vault: Winter Pet Safety (part 1)
Pet Lover Geek
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Pet Lover Geek
From The Vault: Winter Pet Safety (part 1)
Oct 29, 2021 Season 6 Episode 18
Lorien Clemens

Join Lorien as she discusses winter safety tips with the former director of Animal Welfare Studies in Education at Radio Systems Corporation, Dean Vickers! This insightful conversation tackles seen and unseen problems that arise due to the weather outside getting colder.

Show Notes

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Show Notes Transcript

Join Lorien as she discusses winter safety tips with the former director of Animal Welfare Studies in Education at Radio Systems Corporation, Dean Vickers! This insightful conversation tackles seen and unseen problems that arise due to the weather outside getting colder.

Show Notes

Thanks for listening! Check out our sponsor, PetHub for more great pet parent resources.

Have an idea for a PetLoverGeek episode or have something else you want to share? Drop us a note to

00:00 Music

00:02 Lorien Clemens

Hello pet lovers and welcome to Pet Lover Geek I'm Lorien Clemens and today's from the vault episode is all about pet safety during wintertime, stick around through this short break, and then we'll be back with a great episode for you. 

00:17 music

00:31 Lorien Clemens

It's snowing right now outside. It's about 27 degrees. We've got the fireplace going, hot cocoa is on the menu for me right after this show, and depending on where you live, you might also be cuddled up with your furkids right now. Trying to keep warm because it's cold outside, and winter for most of us in the country, it means that there's a few more challenges on getting our pets outside for exercise and bathroom breaks. So today we're going to focus on winter and holiday safety tips because winters here, it's cold outside, and though for a lot of people it's just best to usually stay inside, you know we got to take those dogs out for exercise and potty breaks and things like that and some of us even have cats that are used to going outside on a regular basis, and there's some things we need to be aware of to make sure that they are safe, and warm, and comfortable during these winter months. So to get us started today, we've invited Dean Vickers. Now Dean is the former director of Animal Welfare Studies in Education at Radio Systems Corporation. You probably know them as the makers of the Petsafe brand. He was also an Ohio State Director of the Humane Society of the United States. He's got a lot of experience in animal welfare and disaster response and we're really excited to have him on the show today to share some expert tips on keeping your pets safe and healthy during the winter season. Welcome to Pet Lover geek Dean.

01:46 Dean Vickers

Thank you. Thanks for having me here today.

01:49 Lorien Clemens

Okay, so let's get started. What is the very first thing that we need to keep in mind before taking -- let's say our dog outside?

01:56 Dean Vickers

Sure I have three dogs actually, and my dogs are different sizes, different shapes, different ages. I have Gustav who's 120 pounds Bernese Mountain Dog, also Isabella, who is a 50 pound chow-chow and then I have rocky who is a 40-pound lab mix. Now my first two dogs, long hair -- love, love, love cold. Rocky the lab mix, not so much, so if we were to go outside with him. I want to make sure what's out there. Within as far as that goes, you know, I want to check out, is it raining? Is it sleeting? How cold is it? Before I actually get ready to take him outside and some of that too like with the snow and stuff, it's not just taking them out, it's what the road conditions are like. I've been walking my dogs in the past and you know, cars can't slow down like they could normally, and you know they can veer off and just be careful with that as well, but my big thing for this time of year when I go outside is really what's going on right now? Is it snowing? Is it sleeting? Is it too cold? Then I go from there. 

03:00 Lorien Clemens

What would you constitute as too cold? I mean like, I live up in the mountains, and what is too cold when you say, okay, gotta get out the pee pad 'cause it's just too cold.

03:09 Dean Vickers

A couple years ago here in Ohio, we had like negative 10 or 12 degrees. I look at that and I see how my dogs react. Now for rocky, or at the time it was Jamal, I put a coat on him. The other two dogs, they did not need to because of their long enough hair, and I kind of gauge on how they interact or how they act when they go outside. If I'm not leaving them out, yeah, I look at it -- how long do I want to stay out here? You know? I figure I have less protection outside than they do it. So I'll look at that. I'll still take him out for a walk, even if it's pretty cold. I just watch how much time I spend out there. If it's like 45 degrees or freezing degrees, you know, I'm way more conscious of how long I'm out there, particularly like with my two dogs now -- the longer hair. They go out by themselves, they have a fenced-in yard; I let them in and out that way. If it's colder-colder, I don't let them go out unsupervised. I want to make sure I can see what they're doing, see how their breathing, see how they're interacting outside in the cold. If it's below that, I'm with them, so I can make sure that if something does happen, I'm right there, just drag 'em back in the house.

04:17 Lorien Clemens

So if you're outside with your dog and you're keeping close eye on them, are there signs that people should be seeing like ah, this cold is too much for them, then maybe you wouldn't notice unless you knew to be looking for those sick signs.

04:29 Dean Vickers

You kind of look at their breath. See how they're breathing. If it starts becoming shorter then it could become a little more strained as far as their breathing goes, and also check out their paws. A lot of times when it comes to like walking dogs outside, particularly when it's... I guess either way it amounts the same way because what happens is that they walk, their pads or their paws will melt the snow a little bit, and then it'll refreeze within their pads. Now in the city, it can be not just the ice it's refreezing. It can also be salt or chemicals that people use to make temperatures or make the weather better for them in the snow itself. So you wanna make sure you keep an eye on that. So you can see as their walking, even my chow who loves this weather, as she walks got all serious, kind of lift up her paw, turn and give me a look, which means I rub her paw and melt the snow pad a little bit. Then she walks a little bit further and kind of the same thing happens. Keep an eye on how much ice is building up between their path because that can actually cause some lacerations and cuts because it's still ice you know.

05:32 Lorien Clemens


05:33 Dean Vickers

It can cut their paws up as they're walking.

05:34 Lorien Clemens

So if their high stepping then that's going to be a signal to you. There may be something wrong there.

05:39 Dean Vickers

Well, they're either getting ready for a show.

05:41 Lorien Clemens


05:42 Dean Vickers

Their stepping down, or yeah, they're really... they're looking at their paws like, they're just confused with what's going on here. It hurts when they put the paw down, it's like, oh what's going on here and they look at you for help.

05:51 Lorien Clemens

Right. Do you recommend that folks consider winter apparel, particularly for those smaller dogs? Those shorter hair dogs?

05:59 Dean Vickers

Yeah, I'm not a huge fan of winter apparel, but actually, the answer is yes. Which I didn't do until Jamal, who was a dumpster dog from years ago, but he was like 15 when he finally passed away, and it was the last few years. He just couldn't do it anymore. His fur was just too thin, and so he still liked to go outside with the other two dogs, but he just couldn't physically do it, so I actually got him an Ohio State Jacket, a little sweatshirt, and he loved it.

06:28 Lorien Clemens


06:29 Dean Vickers

The first time I put it on, to be fair, he was not a huge fan, but then he knew "awh look at you. You're so cute -- you're so cute". And then he loved it and he was just so excited to put it on. Never been able to get the footies on before.

06:43 Lorien Clemens

Right, those are impossible. I actually had a similar experience. We have a dog who does not like going outside, but now she sees the coat come out and she's excited because I think it's a big difference for her, and the booties, I agree, I think the booties are awesome. I wish they would work on our dogs. We have never been able to be successful with getting them on our dogs.

07:02 Dean Vickers

Yeah, exactly. I'll get one on and then by the time I get the other one or two on, it's all over with. So it's like let's just -- let's do the best I can do here. You know I'll just redesign myself. Rubbing your feet when we come back inside, call it a day.

07:15 Lorien Clemens

Alright, so let's say that they're coming back inside. Are there things that you should be checking, you know inside, just to make sure everything is good before you let them, you know, go about their business inside once they've gone outside?

07:25 Dean Vickers

Sure, 100%. When I bring my dogs in. Like I said, I have three of them, and my initial coming back in, really becomes a time management process because what I really want to do is check their feet -- their pads when they first come in and rub off -- I have wet naps by the door. So really I just grab a wet nap and always use the same one for all three for the initial rub off. All I am really doing is trying to check their pads real quick for any lacerations, but really I'm rubbing them because I want to take off any of that salt or any chemicals because I don't want them licking that. We've all seen dogs when they come in, their paws are wet or something, they will lick, and lick, and lick. Well if it's a chemical, that's the last thing you want them to do, so I'll just take a wet nap and just kind of rub off real quick right away, and then once they're all inside, then I feel a little more comfortable. I can be a little more thorough. Taking a blanket or a towel, rubbing off their feet a little better, once again checking a little more for that, especially if you see them limping or anything. And then I'll also -- I'll start rubbing down there, if it's been snowing or something I'll rub off their heads and their ears. You want to get in that dry too? It's not just good for the furniture -- especially if they go back outside later. You don't want that to be wet.

08:39 Lorien Clemens

And refreeze.

08:41 Dean Vickers

Wet when they go back out, exactly.

08:42 Lorien Clemens

Yeah, that would be like frostbite, which dogs can get frostbite for sure. So now you mentioned in your article -- you mentioned some health concerns that are, you know, out there in the winter times, like for example, feeding. What types of things can we be keeping in mind with feeding the dogs in the cold months.

08:58 Dean Vickers

Sure now like I said, I have three different dogs, both Isabella and Gustav, because they're longer hair dogs, they love this kind of weather and they actually will run, and run, and run, as much as they can outside, and so they end up using a lot more energy, and so, their food is actually more in the wintertime than the summertime. 'cause in the summertime with long hair dogs, particularly Chows, she's lazy. Let's just be honest here.

09:24 Lorien Clemens


09:25 Dean Vickers

And so she's content in the summertime to lay somewhere in the air conditioning, she doesn't eat that much, and so, in the wintertime, she eats a lot more, and so I have to be careful because Rocky, the lab mix, the opposite. He does not like the cold. He'll go outside if you kind of make him, and he'll go outside for a short period of time, jacket or no jacket, he still doesn't like to be outside too long. So with him I have to really pull back on the food. A, he's a lab who is kind of predisposed to be kind of an eater.

09:55 Lorien Clemens


09:56 Dean Vickers

And I don't want him to get too heavy in the wintertime, so much more careful with how much I feed them and make sure it's good quality food, but I also want to make sure it's not too much, and this time of year more than any other I actually had to pull the food up. Usually, I just put a cup of food in each bowl. Now the wintertime is different because Rocky is an eater, but the other two, will not eat in the summertime where he will eat in the wintertime so.

10:21 Lorien Clemens

Right. So it's important that you kind of keep mindful of how much energy is being expended for sure, and I want before we run out of time 'cause we've only got about a minute left. What other like major concern, safety-wise and health-wise should people be aware of in the wintertime or the holiday months.

10:37 Dean Vickers

Well this time of holiday months, particularly the holiday months, is the holidays in general. I mean, it's people coming over and you got visitors all the time, coming. I will make sure I either have treats that I trust or I make my own treats actually for me, and I leave them out for my guests. That way when they come, they can give my dog a treat that I pre-approve, because otherwise they're gonna be eating all kinds of, well let's just call it garbage because it is. We eat it, and we know what it is. We know we shouldn't, but the dogs don't get it that often, so they're excited to get something new, and you can kind of regulate how much they're getting. Where if they're just eating table scraps. Their just gonna eat, and eat, and eat so I'd be careful of that, I also look at what decorations are around. I look at, you know, I'm careful of ribbons. We don't really use Garland as much anymore, but things like that, and anything that's kind of long and stringy, I'm careful with -- and you know, turkeys, hams, anything like that. It's easy to grab ahold of, and with Gustav being, you know, 120 pounds. You know, he's got a pretty high reach there, and also with him, his tail, oh my gosh, so watch out for candles, things like that. Decorations are fantastic, but candles they can knock off a table. Christmas ornaments like the glass balls. Just be careful, it looks like a tennis ball. Just be careful of things like that. Anything has like long string, even like squeaky toys which Gustav loves. I'm careful, I'll take off scarves, anything that can be kind of long, they can swallow.

12:08 Music

12:08 Lorien Clemens

Right. So just in general, just kind of have a close eye on what could my dog look at as a toy or a piece of food, and make sure that it's gonna be safe for them.

12:17 Dean Vickers

Everything is a toy or piece of food, so yeah.

12:18 Lorien Clemens

Right, exactly. Well thank you so much Dean, we're out of time. It was really great having you on the show.

12:23 Dean Vickers

Oh, it was a pleasure.

12:23 Lorien Clemens

And to our listeners. Thanks for joining us today. Make sure you leave a comment below for any cool or geeky ideas that you want us to cover in future episodes, and like always, give those fur babies a hug from me. I'm Lorien Clemens and this has been Pet Lover Geek Powered by PetHub!