How to Take Care of Your Dog This Winter
Winter is coming, and as we prepare our homes, wardrobe, and menus for the changing season, so too should we devote special attention to taking care of our dogs. As much as your dog might be excited by the snow or love the extra snuggle time with heavy blankets on the couch, winter can be a dangerous time for your pet. Here are some ideas that will help you take care of your dog this winter:
Give your dog a coat
You may think they look silly, but if your dog does not have the ability to grow a thick enough coat of fur to protect them from the winter cold, a doggy coat or sweater is an excellent way to keep them warm during walks or trips outside to use the bathroom. Smaller dogs (Chihuahuas, miniature pinchers, toy terriers) generally need the extra insulation as well as shorthaired dogs or lean dogs (Whippets and Greyhounds). But regardless of your dog’s breed or size, if the temperature in your area drops below zero or if your dog is spending extended periods of time outside, a doggy coat or sweater will help ensure your dog’s warmth. If you can’t go outside without a coat, chances are your dog can’t either. Consider a coat with a water resistant fabric if your dog will be playing in the snow. Make sure to check out the great selection of coats, sweaters and other cold weather gear over at petlife.com.
Provide extra bedding and make sure your dog’s space is warm
You probably switch out your bedding for warmer sheets and comforters in the winter, so show your dog the same courtesy. Make sure your dog has some blankets or towels in his or her bed to stay warm at night and consider moving the bed and food bowls away from windows or doors if cold drafts are coming in. Also consider the type of floor your dog’s bed is on. Wood and linoleum floors can get chilly in the winter so consider moving your dog’s bed to a carpeted area.
Be careful of burns
Wintertime means turning on the heat, starting up the fireplace, and scattering space heaters to banish cold air and shivers. Your dog loves the extra warmth too, but be careful. Dogs don’t understand the safety hazards of getting too close and can burn themselves when curling up next to the furnace in an effort to get toasty. Watch your dog if you have a fireplace or space heater and consider putting up a baby gate if your dog tries to get too close too often.
Protect dog’s feet
Winter means ice and ice means salted roads and sidewalks. As much as your dog’s feet can tough out the elements, salt and ice can hurt your dog’s paw pads. Keep your dog’s hair trimmed around his paws so ice balls don’t form around his feet. Also, keep your dog’s nails trimmed. Long nails force your dog to step with a splayed-out paw which increases the opportunity for ice and snow to get trapped in your dog’s paw pads. Dog boots are an excellent option to keep your dog’s paw pads dry and warm, but most dogs do not like them and have trouble walking normally with them. You can also consider a protective paw balm to soothe irritation and prevent dry and chapped skin that comes along with exposure to the moisture and cold. Either way, make sure to check and wipe your dog’s paws often to keep them dry and free of salt.
Shovel and clear snow
This goes without saying for driveways and sidewalks. Obviously if you have trouble walking through snow, your dog will too, so clearing a way will make winter walks much more enjoyable for both of you. But have you considered your backyard? If you have a gated backyard for your dog to play in, watch as snow accumulates. Snow tends to drift against buildings and, you guessed it, fences, so make sure the snow does not build up enough that your dog could climb up and over the fence.
Beware of antifreeze
Antifreeze commonly drips from cars in the winter and freezes on the ground. This product is sweet to dogs and they love to try and eat it, but it is also extremely toxic and can cause fatal damage to your dog’s system. Watch your dog closely when taking him outside. Even if you normally take you dog out without a leash, consider re-instating one for the winter months. There are plenty of toxic chemicals used on sidewalks and streets to combat the ice and snow that it is not worth the risk if your dog wanders off and digests some. If your dog shows signs of drunken behavior, nausea, diarrhea, or tremors, bring him to the veterinarian right away because he could have ingested antifreeze.
It is always important to keep your dog hydrated, but we don’t often think of it when it isn’t hot outside. Pay attention to your dog’s water bowl especially if it’s located outside or near a drafty door. You may not realize if your dog’s water bowl freezes over and if that happens, your dog can become dehydrated.
Be careful with food intake in the winter months. As the weather gets colder, it’s natural for dogs (and humans) to change their eating habits to create an extra layer of fat protecting them from the cold. You may have to adjust your dog’s food amount or schedule in the winter, but consult your veterinarian first. Many dog owners increase their dog’s intake in the winter, but due to unfavorable weather conditions you may not take your dog out for exercise as often during the winter, and dogs tend to spend more time indoors sleeping than they do normally. You do not want your dog to gain too much weight during the winter.
How do you keep your dog warm in the winter months? What problems have you encountered with your dog and the cold and what did you do to fix it? Let us know in the comments below!