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Keeping a middle aged dog warm

 
George Atwood
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Hello, this is my 1st post. I'm a newbie here. I recently took in my Mom's 8 year old german shepherd. He has some problems with muscle atrophy in his hips because he had been confined to a small yard. This of course only exacerbates any arthritic issues that may be starting. I'm on 2.5 acres, and he's an outside dog, his activity is already greatly increased, as he has room to roam and run here. My concern is keeping him warm this winter. He has always been outside, and doesn't want to come inside. I'd like to provide him some warmth on the porch for winter nights.

I am in inland So Cal. In my little valley, it's not unusual for nighttime temps to drop into the low 20's. I would just hang a heat lamp over his bed, or put a reostat mat under him, but I am 100% off grid, and I am wondering what is the best way to provide some warmth with the least power draw on my batteries? I know there are "low voltage" options available, but I thought someone in here might have a good idea. Oh, and I did try the search engine here. Thank you.
 
Dan Boone
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In your climate you shouldn't need an artificial heat source at all. Your dog has plenty of body heat; IMO what he needs is a snug house (not just a bed) that will keep his body heat in.

Basically any doghouse will do, but you want the smallest one he can easily get in and out of, with the smallest door. Unless his hips limit his ability to get in and out, the smallest door (and smallest house) will be a lot smaller than you think. The important thing is controlling drafts and breezes; you don't need insulation so much as air tightness.

Inside the doghouse, loose bedding (cedar chips are often a good choice, but any sort of wood shavings work well) is better than "a bed" because he can nest into them.

Most dogs are happiest without a flap over their door (they like to lair up in the house while watching the world through the door) but you can use a transparent plastic flap if the dog is still shivering in there. A blanket flap will work for some dogs, but many won't like the loss of vision. If they like the house but don't like the flap, don't worry; they'll just tear it down and add it to the bedding.
 
George Atwood
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Thank you Dan. That is reassuring. I acknowledge that my idea of "cold" is probably pretty mild compared to North.

The one thing I left out was the cold concrete beneath him. A dog house as you describe would get him up off the slab though.

I am still looking for an answwr to me question though. My idea of cold may be a heat wave to you in winter, but it's cold and I want the best for this dog.
Looking for the lowest drawing dog heat source available.
 
chad duncan
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My dog's house is larger than it should be but it is insulated on all sides with 1.5" styrofoam fitted tightly between the studs and then panelled over with white board. The floor is also insulated and carpeted and the ceiling has the same tight fitted styrofoam as well as a thermostat and a heat lamp. The roof is 4" of soil with several feet of grass growing on top. The doghouse is warm and dry and as comfortable as my own house and the dog almost never uses it. He sits outside in the rain instead.

EDIT: I should add that I am on Vancouver Island, BC Canada.
I have the thermostat set for 10 degrees C



The styrofoam under carpet is pretty soft to sit on. You might try building a 2x6 frame, put and inch or two of styrofoam in it, carpet and then wood shavings to fill it up. Pretty soft and pretty warm when the dog burrows into the shavings. The carpet will protect the styrofoam.


 
Colin Nelson
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Location: Baton Rouge, Louisiana
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I agree, in that climate he'll probably be OK. A simple sweater or shirt on him could help, but could get stuck on things so it's best to use while home, a pine & cedar mulch on the concrete could be helpful as well. The suspended blanket is a cool idea. You'll probably know if he's having a hard time with the cold, he'll either want inside, shiver, lean on you more than normal, or be abnormally stiff.
 
Lorinne Anderson
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Location: Vancouver Island, BC, Canada
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There are multiple solutions to this issue, most do require a small amount of electricity, and a not small amount of cash. First option is simply a proper coat that is insulated or waterproof - just make sure your choice is practical (there are way too many "cute" dog jackets that are non-functionable) and if the dog is large, often a newborn foal coat/jacket is a cheaper alternative for waterproof warmth. Second option is to supply a heat source of some sort. I do both, my dogs have polar fleece jackets, and they have their heated beds.

My first "go to" for heated beds (or bowls or....) is the K&H line of heated animal products. They have dozens of soft, semi-soft, and hard beds that are specifically designed for dogs (cats and other critters).

My personal preference is their line of hard black plastic pads (the thermo or extreme weather lines) that plug in using anywhere from 25-100 watts. They are not cheap ($30-$200 depending on size and "sale"), but they are incredibly durable. The orphaned wild critters get them in the late spring to early fall, the dogs from late fall to late spring. They are designed for outdoor use, are a sealed, hard plastic unit with a metal coil over the cord to prevent chewing. They come with a faux sheepskin cover, often, but honestly, my critters and dogs prefer to lay directly on the surface, any padding I use they either remove or burrow under, apparently they LIKE the hard surface. They can also be mounted to the side of the dog (or chicken...) house for the dog to lean against if desired.

I bought five (various sizes) ten years ago - all have been in use 24/7, 365 days a year for over a decade. This year I finally had to replace a few. Upon their annual inspection I noticed one had some deformity to the plastic on the bottom outlining where the wiring obviously was. Although still working, I decided to retire it and avoid a potential melt down situation. The second one was no longer heating, and the third, well my friends neurotic shepherd ate it during a thunderstorm (he ate the crate he was confined in also!).

Second option is the PlayaPet Round Heated Pet Pad. These are great ONLY if you have NO CONCERN about the dog "digging", to make a bed. They are basically a heating pad for pets, encased in a soft vinyl housing that slips into a zippered, soft (but unpadded) cover. It can be used alone or placed in an existing dog bed. Depending on size, they draw 12-20 watts. If electrical consumption is a concern you can opt for the "Pressure Activated" version - it is more costly, but, only draws juice when the animal sits on it.

Both are specifically designed for pets to provide a warming comfort at the vet recommended temperature of 102F (you, personally may not feel the heat, or feel it is "not warm enough", trust me, the critters love the temp). All seem to maintain a constant temp, unlike human heating pads that often cycle up and down. All come with a chew barrier on the cord. I stalk Amazon for them when they are either on sale, or in the warehouse (returns) section. The K&H ones come in multiple versions (identical units) with different names and price points...the chicken warmer was cheaper than the cat warmer (I got both) and were identical. The baby chick warmer is more expensive than the rabbit/lizard one, and again they appear identical.

Personally, I prefer investing in these heat sources over light bulbs, heat lamps or using blankets/beds, straw/hay/chip bedding. The former is expensive to use, and the risk of broken glass in the dogs bed, well, not good (and personally I would not like to sleep in a lighted room). The latter because bedding, whether fabric or natural, is nasty, if not useless for insulation once wet, and some dogs like to destroy or eat their bedding. Lastly, frankly, I'm too lazy to check the dog sleeping area daily to ensure there is clean, dry, warm bedding every time the temp goes down or it rains....

PS: the K&H heated, indoor plush cat beds are a winner also with a small vinyl pad that lies beneath the cushion - my small dogs love these (we have at least seven of these beds) as do my friends cats...but again, stalk Amazon for sales or returns (warehouse store) where mine were $30-$50, not the often $120 regular price.
 
Marco Banks
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He'll be fine without any supplemental heat source. Just feed him a little bit more, as he will burn more calories keeping warm at night. Does he sleep in a dog house? You could insulate that a bit by putting some styrofoam panels inside along the walls, and get him off of concrete, as you can sit on concrete for a month and it never warms up with body head ---- it's a giant heat sink.

Or make him a nice big nest of straw (like a broody chicken) and let him burrow in on a cold night.

Animals are so much tougher than we humans give them credit for. As long as they are dry and out of the wind, dogs are fine outdoors.
 
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