Does your dog love winter, or would she rather cuddle up on the couch under a cozy blanket? Either way, you should be prepared to protect her when she ventures out into the elements this season.
Many dog owners live with the misconception that because their pets have a coat of fur, they can tolerate cold better than humans. This isn’t necessarily the case. As you explore the winter landscape with your faithful four-legged friend, please keep these winter care tips from Dog’s Naturally Magazine in mind!
1. Beware of the temperature.
Some dog breeds are blessed with thick fur that keeps them warm naturally, even in very cold temperatures, but dogs with thinner coats may need a sweater or coat when out for winter walks. A good coat should reach from the neck to the base of the tail and also protect the belly. But remember – coats will not prevent frostbite on the ears, feet, or tail…so even with a cozy coat, you shouldn’t keep your short haired dog out too long in freezing temperatures.
2. Go outside when the sun shines.
If your dog feels the cold, try to walk her in the late morning or early afternoon hours when temperatures are a little warmer, and avoid early morning or late evening walks. Spending time playing outside when it’s sunny brings the added benefit of providing both you and your pet with vitamin D.
3. Limit outdoor time in winter.
Your pet may love to spend time outdoors, but in winter even the furriest dog can get cold. Ears, paws, and tails are all susceptible to frostbite. A good rule is to go out with him, and when you’re ready to come in, he probably will be too.
4. Make sure your dog has cozy bedding.
Choosing the right bedding is vital to ensure your dog stays warm, rather than sleeping on a cold floor. Warm blankets, raised beds, and heated beds can help keep the stiffness out of aging joints. Place your dog’s bed in a warm spot away from drafts and uncarpeted floors, preferably in a favorite spot so that the area doesn’t feel unfamiliar.
5. Protect your dog from heaters.
Dogs will often seek heat during cold winter weather by snuggling too close to heating sources. Avoid space heaters and fireplaces if at all possible. Or be sure to create a pet=proof system to keep your dog out of harm’s way.
Dry and cold weather can do a number on your pet’s skin. Help prevent dry, flaky skin by adding a skin and coat supplement to her food. Coconut oil is a good natural moisturizer that can keep your pet’s skin and coat healthy. You can also use it topically as needed for ears, paws, or tail when dry or cracking.
7. No overfeeding please!
Although many dogs need an extra layer in winter, make sure it comes from a coat and not a layer of fat. Cold temperatures may bring on lazy behavior and the need for fewer calories. Be attentive to your dog’s activity level and waistline, and adjust your feeding guidelines accordingly.
8. Keep your dog hydrated.
Dogs can dehydrate just as quickly in winter as summer. Although many dogs eat snow, it’s not an adequate substitute for fresh water. If your dog spends time outdoors in your yard, make sure she has access to a water bowl, and be sure to check it often and break ice that forms on top.
9. Groom your dog.
Your dog needs a clean, well-groomed coat to keep her properly insulated. This is especially important if your dog spends a lot of time outdoors. After bathing, dry your dog thoroughly, especially before allowing her outside.
10. Paw care is a must.
Just as we tend to develop foot cracks in winter, dogs can also suffer from cracked pads. If your dog has furry feet, trim the hairs that grow between the pads to prevent ice build up. Winter salt on city sidewalks can also burn and is toxic, so try using booties or rinsing your dog’s paws to remove any salt – you don’t want her licking it off. For areas around your home, we recommend using a paw-safe ice melt, available at your local Barkery.
11. Avoid exposure to toxins.
With winter comes antifreeze. Antifreeze tastes sweet and dogs (as well as some children!) will readily lick or drink it. Antifreeze is extremely toxic and just a small amout can be fatal. Keep your dog out of the garage and off the driveway where she may encounter antifreeze or other harmful chemicals.
12. NEVER leave your dog unattended in the car, no matter what the season.
Just as cars get dangerously hot in summer, freezing cold temperatures are equally dangerous for your dog in winter. Leaving the car running involves additional risks, so it’s best to leave your dog at home when you go out to run errands.
13. Use special care for seniors.
Cold weather will often aggravate existing medical conditions in dogs, particularly with arthritis. It’s important to maintain an exercise regimen with your arthritic dog, but be mindful of slippery surfaces and make sure your dog has a warm, soft rest area to recuperate after activity. If you don’t already use a natural joint supplement, you may want to consider adding one in winter. Just like people, dogs are more susceptible to other illnesses during winter weather.
Harsh winter weather brings a wide variety of concerns to responsible dog owners. Paying special attention to your loyal friend’s wellbeing during the winter season will ensure that each of you enjoy it to the fullest.
Keep these winter care tips in mind, and don’t forget that winter cuddles with your canine buddy are a great way for everyone to keep warm!