No one likes having to bundle up to go outside when it’s below freezing. Imagine having to go outside multiple times a day just to use the bathroom! Unfortunately, that’s the case for our dogs. Unlike us, they don’t have the ability to ask for a jacket because they’re chilly or for shoes because their feet hurt. Lucky for you, there are plenty of things you can do so your dog doesn’t have to wish she could ask. Here are five ways you can help keep your furry friend warm and happy in the cold season.
#1: Cold-weather gear
Some of our furry friends have built-in winter coats, but others aren’t so lucky. Short-haired, elderly, and young dogs, as well as those with chronic health problems, can all benefit from some additional warmth when the mercury drops. Dogs with short legs, such as dachshunds and corgis, will also appreciate a layer between their bellies and the cold ground. Just because your pooch is suited up, don’t assume she can stay out for a long time in the cold. Keep walks and playtime short to avoid overexposure. Although sweaters and coats may look stylish, take your pet’s jacket off when she’s inside to avoid overheating.
#2: Foot care
Nature may have given some dogs warm coats, but all dogs walk on the same unprotected paw pads. Even sled dogs require special care to keep their feet in running shape. Winter leaves your pup’s sensitive pads exposed to all kinds of dangers:
- Snow and ice can become balled up between the toes and cause irritation or frostbite.
- Sharp ice can traumatize the footpads.
- Snow can hide dangerous objects underneath its surface.
- Salt and other melting agents can be toxic and are easily ingested if your dog licks her paws after a walk.
If your dog tolerates it, booties are the best option to protect her feet. Simply remove after each outside adventure and clean before the next one. If the booties cause a meltdown and clearly won’t be tolerated, other options include wax-style paw protectants, such as Musher’s Secret or Baely’s Paw Shield. These products create a soothing barrier on the paws, protecting them from ice, snow, and dry winter air.
#3: Skin care
Cooler temperatures mean warm, dry air from the furnace circulating around your home. Your pet’s skin can dry out as easily as yours does. To help combat dry, flaky, itchy skin, keep a humidifier running in the house. Increasing the amount of time between baths will help the skin’s natural oils keep moisture locked in. If your dog is plagued with irritated skin even with a humidifier, check with our veterinary team for recommendations to ease her discomfort.
#4: Bathroom time
If we could poll all the dogs of the world, very few of them likely enjoy having to go outside to use the bathroom when it’s cold, snowy, or wet. If your four-legged pal is more of a fair-weather friend, you can make her trek outside easier by clearing a path through the snow. Start at the door and shovel a path to a cleared patch on the grass or potty area. This may help prevent inside accidents and will reduce the risk of your pet slipping and falling on her way out to do her business.
#5: Miscellaneous cold-weather considerations
Humans and animals alike tend to drink less water when it’s cold outside. When combined with exercise and increased energy requirements from staying warm, dehydration can develop. Make sure clean, fresh water is always available, and keep an eye on how much your dog is drinking. Contact your veterinarian if you become concerned.
Lean-bodied dogs that are very active during the winter may need additional calories during the cold season. Ask your veterinarian if a diet change is in order.
Finally, just because it’s not hot outside doesn’t mean it’s ok to leave your pet in the car for long periods of time. Even though they have natural insulation, dogs still rely on their packmates to keep them warm. Do your pet a favor and let her stay home curled up in her bed.
Winter may only be here for a few months of the year, but it can still pack a punch. Don’t let your dog get caught unprepared. Call us with questions about your pet’s winter readiness.