Shakespeare & Company A Body of Water June-July 2024

Soft Paws: Winterizing your dog


By Charlene Marchand

For Capital Region Independent Media

Pictured with CGHS/SPCA Adoption Counselor Kylie Hulbert, Bella is a 7-year-old Anatolian shepherd. She was surrendered in October due to no fault of her own; her previous owners didn’t have the ability to give her the proper housing or care she needed. Bella is one of the sweetest dogs you’ll ever meet! She loves all forms of affection, including belly rubs. She’s pretty laid back most of the time, but she still gets the zoomies! Bella is good with both cats and dogs, and we believe she’d be fine with little kids. Contributed photo

Many articles are written at this time of year on “winterizing” our dogs. The American Kennel Club puts out a nice resume of cold-weather maintenance suggestions for our north country canines.

Of course, we’ll add some tips of our own to this master list:

  • Provide plenty of fresh water. Use a rubber horse bucket for outdoor watering. The use of metal is dangerous – sticking tongues. Dogs cannot properly hydrate by licking snow. It is not a substitute for water. For outdoor dogs, put out really warm water in the morning, and check frequently. Check your Agway and Tractor Supply stores for in-bucket water heaters.
  • Provide plenty of food. Unless Fido is spending his days in front of the wood stove, a food increase is almost always necessary for dogs spending significant time outdoors.
  • Keep your dog’s paws dry. Salt used on sidewalks and roads can present your dog with cracked and bleeding/sore pads. Bag balm or petroleum jelly works wonders after rinsing feet.
  • Groom your dog regularly. It’s a given that dogs regulate temperature and insulate better if properly groomed. Dirty coats do not keep a dog warm. Give them a damp hot towel bath with a brisk brushing session. That undercoat needs to come out to prompt fresh and rapid regrowth.
  • Keep your dog warm, dry and away from drafts. Outside shelters should be raised above the ground a few inches and should preferably be insulated. A rubber or burlap flap in front of the opening is desirable.
  • Though many prefer straw or wood shavings for bedding, a dog can develop skin infections if forced to live on damp material, so check and change bedding frequently.
  • With very few exceptions, all dogs should come in for the evening, at least if temperatures fall below 30°F. If you bring them into garages or unheated porches, make sure they have a blanket, rubber mat, or pad to get them off the cold floor. An overhead heat lamp is not only safe for garage use, it provides an excellent climate of warmth for your resting dog.
  • Watch out for winter hazards. A few years ago, we rescued a stray dog with frostbite on the tips of his ears and on his front pads. He could hardly walk. This animal was a 105-pound full-coated German shepherd dog who supposedly could “take the cold.” I think not!

If you’re thinking of popping down for the holidays with some in-kind donations for our homeless critters, but can’t figure out what to get – here are a few ideas for items that are always on our shelter wish list:

  • Blankets/towels
  • Cat and dog food
  • Cat and dog toys
  • Cat and dog treats
  • Cat litter
  • Dish soap
  • Bleach
  • Laundry detergent
  • Paper towels
  • Postage stamps
  • Sponges and rubber gloves
  • Photo paper (8.5 x11)

Thank you!

Feel free to call us with any questions at 518-828-6044 or visit our website at Our Food Bank is open to any from the public in need of pet food or for those wishing to donate food from 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily. Spay/neuter clinics for cats are $86, male or female, including a rabies vaccination and a 5-in-1 feline distemper combination vaccination. Nail clipping services are available every Saturday from 10-11 a.m. at the shelter for a donation of $10 for cats and $15 for dogs (currently prepaid only).

Charlene Marchand is the chairperson of the Columbia-Greene Humane Society/SPCA Board of Directors. She may be contacted at

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