Like us humans tend to complain, winter may not be your pup’s best season. Temperatures affect all of us, and despite having a nice coat of fur, dogs are no more resistant to the cold than we are in our down-feather coats, ski-jackets, windbreakers and woolen socks. Though we wear multiple layers we still get cold, and so do our dogs! Here we have gathered some of the most important tips for keeping your pooch healthy and warm in winter:
Very few dog breeds are built for living outside in freezing weather, and even these cannot survive without shelter. Like humans, dogs should be kept inside as much as possible during winter. Provide your pooch a warm place to sleep, like a comfy dog bed with a blanket or pillow, off of cold floors and away from drafts. As for traveling, don’t leave your pet unattended in a vehicle in cold weather! Temperatures drop quickly inside a car, and can be just as deadly as leaving a pet inside a car during hot weather.
Nursing mothers, puppies, and very active dogs have high energy requirements during cold weather and may need more food and water. Other dogs should not get extra food, as that can cause them to gain unhealthy weight during winter. However, more water doesn’t hurt at all. Winter is a dryer season, so add warm water to your dog’s dry food (look at package directions for amounts) to help keep him or her hydrated.
Older dogs, very young dogs, and dogs with medical conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, or hormonal imbalances are more prone to suffer from the cold. Short-haired pets and short-legged pets will likely get cold faster. However, every dog has a difference tolerance of the cold. Adjust your time outside with your pooch to his or her comfort level, which will vary based on their fur, body fat, activity level, and health. Before it gets frigid, now is a good time to take your dog to the vet for a check-up to make sure your dog is ready for winter weather.
Shorten your mileage and minutes when walking your dog during winter, but increase the number of walks you take so your pooch still gets enough exercise. Minimizing their exposure to extreme temperatures will protect their noses, ears and paw pads from freeze damage. Especially for short-haired breeds, sweaters, dog coats and well-fitted booties can ward off the cold during their outdoor excursions. Like us, dogs need extra layers to stay warm. A sweater or coat should have a high collar or turtleneck with coverage from the base of the tail to the belly.
During a walk, watch for signs of hypothermia in your pooch like whining, shivering, and moving weakly or slowly.
After a walk, wash your dog’s feet, legs, and belly to remove chemicals such as de-icers, and antifreeze. Dogs may ingest these chemicals when they lick their fur, and antifreeze especially is very poisonous. Consider using pet-safe de-icers on your own property. Fur and feet need extra maintenance during winter. Snow, ice, salt or chemicals can build up between toes, and fur can get damp and dirty. Keep your dog’s fur coat well-groomed during winter, and check his or her feet frequently for buildups.
For more information about helping your pooch weather winter, check out these great sources:
The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA)