Cold Weather Care for Bird Dogs


These Purina tips for providing proper nutrition and winterizing a kennel make the cold a non-issue for your bird dog

Cold weather can be tough on your bird dog. It can affect his or her energy and immune systems, making them prone to disease and injury. Winterizing kennels helps to reduce diseases and the risks of hypothermia, a dangerous drop in body temperature and frostbite.

Both heated and unheated kennels should have adequate insulation. Kennel doors should be closed at night, particularly when it is cold and windy. Good ventilation, without excessive cross drafts, will help keep air fresh. Additionally, air should be exhausted from the ceiling to the floor to prevent warm air near the ceiling from being pulled out. Vents should be opened whenever the outside temperature is warmer than the inside temperature.

Inside shelter may be necessary if temperatures become extremely cold. “A doghouse may not keep a dog warm when subzero temperatures prevail,” says Purina Director of Sporting Dog Programs Karl Gunzer. “You also want to keep a dog’s coat dry in this type of weather. A damp coat drains body heat.”

Outdoor doghouses should be located where there is good drainage and raised a few inches off the ground to help keep out moisture. The elevated area should be shielded with boards to prevent wind from gusting under the doghouse. A canvas flap can be placed over the door of a doghouse, or an inside partition can be used to help deep direct wind off your bird dog.

Gunzer suggests a doghouse with an inside partition to a sleeping area to help keep your dog warm. “With a cover on the outside door, this type of doghouse goes a long way in keeping drafts off a dog,” he says. “It also helps to conserve heat.”

Adequate heat and proper sanitation are important too. It’s best to maintain a constant temperature around 60 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit. Good sanitation should be practiced year-round, but a hose may be impractical in winter due to freezing water lines. Instead, a scraper or shovel may be used to remove waste from concrete runs. Waste should be picked up daily.

Although you can’t change winter weather, you can be sure your dog is healthy and comfortable.

Cold Weather Nutrition

Did you know that a dog needs 7 percent more calories for every 10 degrees the temperature drops below the moderate temperatures of spring and fall?

In fact, the caloric needs of an active dog in winter could double. Feeding a high quality, complete and balanced canine diet year-round, such as Purina Pro Plan SPORT Performance 30/20 Formula, is recommended. Poor-quality dog food is not a per-calorie savings.

In winter, it helps to allow dogs to gain a small amount of weight for insulation and energy reserves. However, it still is important to maintain dogs in ideal body condition, defined as ribs palpable without excess fat covering. A dog should have ample water in winter because of the metabolic changes that take place and to help process extra food. Be sure to keep your dog’s water from freezing.

A Winter Checklist for Kennels

Winter care for bird dogs in kennels involves taking practical steps to ensure their safety and comfort. Follow these tips to get through the frosty winter months:

Be sure kennels are dry and draft-free. Like people, dogs are susceptible to hypothermia, frostbite and illness if kept too long in the cold or a constant draft.

Dogs should have a place to sleep that is comfortable and elevated off the ground. A fiberglass sleeping pallet with bedding material, such as fleece, thick carpet pads, blankets and dog beds, provides comfort.

Add door flaps to doghouses to help hold back wind and weather.

Kennel runs should be kept free of snow and ice.

Maintain your kennel at a constant temperature between 60 and 65 degrees F when possible.

Stock extra dog food so you are ready for severe snowstorms.

A Winter Checlist for Physical Care

Beware of antifreeze. Dogs are attracted to the sweet taste of ethylene glycol in antifreeze, but it is toxic. If a dog licks antifreeze, prompt veterinary care is essential.

Regularly check your bird dog’s footpads. Constant exposure to moisture caused by rain, snow or mud can irritate a dog’s footpads, causing skin damage and infection from bacteria or fungi. If your dog has cracked or bleeding paws, consult your veterinarian.

Throughout winter, keep an eye out for cuts, abrasions, debris in eyes, and pad injuries.

Make sure your bird dog’s vaccinations are current. The stress of severe cold is even greater for dogs in poor health.