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Caring for Your Beardie
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• Winterizing Your Beardie

Snow and Cold Care of Beardies

by Cathy Goetz-Perry

Three beardies in a snowy yard.

When I sat down to write this column about Snow and Cold Care of Beardies, I remembered Carol Gold had done a piece on that very subject. I found her article on 'Winterizing Your Beardie" in the December, 1982, Bearded Colleague. So, rather than reinventing the wheel, please enjoy Carol's article (within quotation marks) with some personal additions. 

"When the weather outside is frightful, it's time to take some special precautions for your Beardie. 

Beardies love snow, but not all snow loves Beardies. That particular kind known as "good-packing snow" packs especially well on the hair on those shaggy legs. If enough collects, it can immobilize your dog." And, it can lead to frostbite. "How to get it off? Bring your snow-suited Beardie inside and dip each leg in turn into a bucket of cool or lukewarm water. The snow will melt and all you have to do is wring the water out of the hair. Try to keep your Beardie in until the hair dries out a little. 

Snow turns to balls of ice when it collects between Beardie toes and it can be very painful. Most Beardies try to bite it out but you can help by holding the icy balled-up hairs in your nice warm hand for a few seconds when outside (you can always warm your hand inside its mitten later)." When your Beardie comes in with snowballs, again a dunk in a bucket of water helps. 

"Don't walk your Beardie on salted walks or roads. The salt can cause excruciating pain if it gets into the tiniest hairline crack in the pads. Even if your dog doesn't seem bothered while on the walk, make sure you rinse his feet afterwards so he doesn't lick the salt off - it can cause severe stomach aches. 

A Beardie in good health can be a great companion if you're cross-country skiing. But give your dog a chance to build up his stamina. Leaping through the drifts is much harder work than sliding over them and harder, too, than running over hard ground all summer and fall. So start slowly with short ski jaunts and work up to the longer hauls. 

Your dog needs more food in winter because he burns more calories keeping warm." Some fleshiness is desirable during periods of cold weather. Layers of fat insulation help reduce the radiation of heat from the dog's body surface, especially if your Beardie is outside for part of the day. Winter is a time Beardies may develop itchy and/or dry skin. Your Beardie may need the addition of non-essential fatty acids in his diet along with extra calories. Halibut oil, Veterol-X, or cod liver oil in small amounts (fish oils - work up to 1 tsp/day gradually) may help. One way to help ensure dogs eat enough is to feed them twice a day. Build up to two divided meals over 7 - 10 days. 

"He needs more grooming, too, because matted hair is not a good insulator. Read all those ads for the benefits of down and translate that to hair - it's the air spaces that keep in the warmth. If the hair is matted, it's solid: no air spaces, no warmth. 

A humidifier will keep your dog from getting a charge out of winter. An electric charge, that is. Dry indoor air promotes the buildup of static electricity in your dog's coat so every time you touch him he gets a shock. Sometime, the charge is big enough for him to shock himself. Turn out the lights and watch your Beardie walk across the rug some icy night.. it's like a light show in his coat. Added humidity in the air prevents this and makes him easy to brush. It's also good for his respiratory system. Oh, yes, it's great for you, too." 

If your Beardie spends time outdoors he must have protection from the weather in the form of an insulated dog house with the opening turned to the south or east and covered with a baffle or flap. There should be bedding in the house. The dog needs access to water that is protected from freezing. If your dogs sleep in kennels or normally like sleeping on a hard floor such as tile or concrete, please ensure that they have a bed or sleeping pallet to keep them off the cold floor. 

Check your dog's pads regularly during the winter. It helps trimming the hair between the pads. Constant exposure to moisture caused by snow, slush or mud can irritate your dog's feet and cause skin damage or encourage infection. Beardie boots can help prevent exposure to salt and other de-icers and keep feet semi-dry. Most Beardie boots aren't totally water repellent and don't keep feet dry without the addition of sandwich bags inside. When it's really cold out (-10 Celsius or colder), we put children's socks on inside the boots for a walk. That’s how I use those single socks that come out of the washer. Dogs coats aren't usually necessary with a Beardie unless the dog is a pup or has been clipped. 

Frostbite is a danger with Beardie feet, ears, tail, and scrotums especially when snow packs onto the dog and the weather is extremely cold. with a coated dog, you really must look for frostbite symptoms. Puppies, geriatric, ill or fatigued dogs are most at risk for frostbite. Signs of frostbite are: flushed, reddened tissues; white or grayish tissues; evidence of shock; scaliness or sloughing of the skin. 

Frozen tissues should never be rubbed or massaged. The area should be warmed rapidly by immersing or soaking in warm water. As soon as tissues become flushed or reddened, stop warming. Gently dry affected areas, bandage the area and seek vet attention. An animal who has suffered frostbite should be protected from further exposure and is more susceptible to repeated freezing (1994, Ralston Purina Canada, Inc. the Purina Pet Care Information Series). 

Sanitation outside and in runs in as important in winter as during the warmer months. It's important that runs, whether gravel or concrete be level and allow for snow and water drainage so moisture doesn't build up and promote infection of your Beardie's feet. Keep runs and exercise areas clear of snow as much as possible. It's important to pick up excrement once a day. Although many parasites, bacteria and viruses cannot survive extreme temperatures, some can. They can be brought in on feet and flourish in the warm indoors or may hibernate until warmer weather arrives. Remember, April is only three months away! 

Copyright © 1997 [Cathy Goetz-Perry]
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© Bearded Collie Club of Canada 1997 - 2010
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Last revised: November 11, 2010