Okay, so the sun is still shining and the scent of Labor Day charcoal still tinges the air. As much as we don't want to let go of summer, fall and winter are coming, and you want your pug to be prepared.
NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, has already released its forecast for the 2013-2014 winter season. According to their predictions, the Columbus and central Ohio area will likely receive about average precipitation and temperatures similar to last winter. The Farmer's Almanac is predicting a harsher winter, but there is some argument about their accuracy. Either way, though, if you've lived through an Ohio winter, you know it's likely to be cold and possibly snowy.
Lots of people know that pugs don't do too well in hot weather. Their short, flat faces make it hard to evaporate enough moisture to stay cool and heat stroke is always a risk. What isn't as widely known is that they don't fare very well in extremely cold wintry weather either. Dogs, and humans, use their noses to warm air as it enters the sinuses and lungs, so pugs are again at a disadvantage, nasally. While the majority of pugs have double coats, with a fluffy undercoat for warmth and a harder outer coat for repelling moisture, some do have single, hard coats. Those are the ones who might appreciate a little jacket or sweater. (My single-coat, Loki, has a little red sweatshirt of which he is very fond.) Do remember to remove the coat or sweater promptly, once your pug is back inside. A damp coat can cause skin irritations, if left holding moisture up against the fur.
Remembering environmental toxins is particularly important in the winter. Standard antifreeze usually contains one or more of the following ingredients:
Methanol - CH3OH, also known as wood alcohol or wood spirits, is the simplest form of alcohol. Methanol is used, at room temperature, as a solvent and to prevent windshield washer fluid and gasoline from freezing. Methanol is highly toxic when consumed; even in small doses it can cause blindness or loss of visual acuity, and motor disorders similar to Parkinson's.
Ethylene glycol - First available in 1926 as a year-round antifreeze, because it has a lower freezing point and higher boiling point than anything else on the market at that time. Fortunately, in recent years many antifreeze brands are switching to propylene glycol as an alternative. Propylene glycol is considerably less toxic than ethylene glycol. Ethylene glycol also has a sweet taste that makes it very appealing to dogs, so it must always be kept out of their reach at all times, both in use and in manners of disposal. It is hard to detect in the body and even harder to treat. Symptoms, including severe diarrhea, violent vomiting, and appearing to be drunk, are easily confused with other diseases. As the body tries to metabolize the chemical, the process produces calcium oxalate crystals that invade, and damage, the brain, lungs, kidneys and heart. Death can be as rapid as 72 hours, if appropriate treatment is not started immediately, as the kidneys simply fail, or death can take weeks or months, depending on the amount consumed.
Propylene glycol - as mentioned above, most antifreeze products labeled "non-toxic" contain propylene glycol instead of ethylene glycol. Look for those products to protect your pug from his own sweet tooth. Propylene glycol is safe enough that it can legally be used in some processed foods, like ice creams and frozen custards.
Glycerol - Glycerol isn't used much any more, but it was once a prominent ingredient in automotive antifreeze products. Glycerol is non-toxic and noncorrosive. It works by disrupting the formation of crystal lattice structures in freezing water. Currently it sees use in laboratory settings, to reduce ice damage to laboratory tissue specimens that must be frozen for storage.
Sidewalk de-icing compounds are also a cause for some concern. Some are composed mostly of forms of salt, and can be very, very irritating to your pug's paws. Others contain other chemicals that may be toxic. Either way, make sure to wipe your pets paws with a damp cloth after a walk, to prevent irritation and ingestion by licking. As an alternative, you can make your own. A simple combination of rock salt and clay cat litter makes an effective and pet-safe sidewalk deicer. You'll still want to wipe paws, but you won't have to worry about your pug licking and ingesting something poisonous.
Winter offers its own forms of fun, from relaxing by the fire, to snowball fights and snow forts and walks on cold, crisp nights so clear it looks like you can touch the stars with your mittened hand. There is no reason your pug can't enjoy winter with you, with just a few simple "winterizations" to keep him safe and comfortable.