Many dogs live outside all year round and are perfectly happy to do so. However, it's important that you make sure your dog's kennel is adequately equipped during the winter months so that your dog stays warm. Here are some top tips on how to winterise your dog's kennel
Winter dangers for kennelled dogs
The two primary health risks for dogs that live outside in kennels over the winter months are frostbite and hypothermia. Hypothermia results if your dog's core body temperature becomes too low, threatening his central nervous system and heat function. Even though your dog is protected by a fur coat, he can still succumb to frostbite. Frostbite can cause severe, painful damage to your dog's paws, ears, and tail, as the blood flow to these extremities is compromised.
Always be vigilant to your dog's demeanour during periods of very cold weather and always seek veterinary advice immediately if you think there's something wrong.
Keeping the kennel warm
When deciding where to site your dog's kennel, always choose somewhere sheltered that doesn't face the prevailing wind direction. This ensures that chilly gales are kept out of the kennel and rain isn't driven inside. If possible, place the kennel with its back to a wall or thick bushes to act as a windbreak and give added insulation.
To prevent the kennel from becoming flooded during spells of very wet weather, always raise it up off the ground. An elevated position also prevents the transfer of cold directly from the ground into the kennel, helping to keep your dog cosy inside.
When choosing a kennel for your dog, look for one that allows enough space inside for the dog to stand up, turn around, and lay down easily. If the kennel is quite a cosy fit, it will stay warmer, fuelled by the dog's own body heat.
Insulation is very important if you want to be sure that you dog will stay warm during cold spells. You can buy special dog kennel insulation kits from good pet supplies stores or you could use polystyrene foam or sheets placed between the kennel's walls to help keep it cosy. Whichever form of insulation you choose, always make sure that the walls are sound so that your dog can't chew the padding. You can insulate the bottom of the kennel with wood shavings or straw, although you may have to top this up from time to time.
It's a good idea to use well-padded, washable bedding for your dog's kennel and to have at least two changes of bedding in case one gets wet. You could also invest in a heating pad for use in the kennel. A heating pad placed under your dog's bed will ensure that he's toasty warm, but don't leave the pad switched on constantly as this could risk your dog becoming overheated or even dehydrated.
If your dog lives outside in a kennel, you can make sure that he stays warm and happy this winter by following the tips given above. For more advice on winter health for your dog, have a chat with your vet or with nursing staff at your veterinary clinic.