Winter can be a beautiful time of year where snowflakes fall from the sky creating a wonderland for you and your canine companion to enjoy. However, as the temperatures drop, it is essential to ensure our furry friends stay warm, comfortable, and safe! Here are some basic cold weather safety tips to keep in mind to ensure your dog(s) stay healthy and happy during the chilly season.
Regular grooming is important to maintain your dog’s coat and skin health, but, keeping your dog’s coat a bit longer in the colder months will help provide a little more warmth. Brushing often helps remove loose fur and promotes better insulation. Additionally, avoid excessive bathing of your pup, as it can strip essential oils from their skin and coat, leading to dryness.
If your dog is short-haired and doesn’t naturally have a thick coat, consider getting them a dog sweater with a high collar and coverage from the base of the tail to the belly. For many short-haired dogs this is absolutely required to keep them warm in the winter months.
Clean Up After Walks and Outside Play
During walks or outside play, your dog's feet, legs, and belly may pick up dangerous de-icing products, antifreeze, or other chemicals that not only cause skin irritation, but could be toxic. As soon as your dog is back inside, be sure to wipe them down completely, especially their feet legs and belly. This will help remove any chemicals they may have picked up and reduce the risk of them licking any toxins from their fur.
On your own property, consider using pet-safe de-icers to protect your dog and your furry neighbors.
Protect Those Paws
Just like we experience chapped lips, cracked paws can be annoying and painful. Built up snow and ice can irritate the sensitive skin between their toes, as well as other elements found outdoors during the winter, such as sidewalk salt, can cause burns to your dog’s paw pads and even be fatal if they were to lick it off and ingest these chemicals.
Doggy boots are the best protection for your pup’s paws, unfortunately, most dogs are not a fan. Give your dog time to get adjusted to them by allowing them to wear them around the house first before going outside. If your dog is not feeling the boots another way to help protect their paws is to massage petroleum jelly or other paw protectants into paw pads before going outside.
Did you know our pets burn extra energy by trying to stay warm in wintertime? Dogs, like humans, need to maintain constant body temperature and the way to do it during winter is by shivering. However, shivering leads to a loss of calories in dogs. Be sure to feed your dog a little more food during the winter months to make up for the calorie loss.
While it may be cold, it’s crucial to ensure your dog stays well-hydrated. Cold weather can be drying, and indoor heating can contribute to dehydration. Keep fresh water available at all times for your pups.
Prevent Hypothermia and Frostbite
If it’s too cold for you, it’s probably too cold for your pet. Limit time outside when it is extremely cold, especially when it is windy and wet to prevent hypothermia. If you have a dog that typically stays outside it’s time to take them inside or provide a heated, dry shelter for them.
And, just like we should never leave our dogs in a hot car in the summer months, we should never leave our dogs in a cold car during the winter months. Cars can act as refrigerators that hold in the cold creating the potential for hypothermia.
Hypothermia is a condition in which your dog’s body temperature falls below the normal level due to prolonged exposure to cold temperatures or from having wet fur in a cold, windy environment. Hypothermia can range from mild to severe. If the dog’s body temperature continues to drop, their heart rate and breathing will slow which can lead to several health problems. This can also lead to frostbite and eventually death.
Know Your Dog
Dogs with thin coats are less tolerant of the cold, and smaller dogs, with their little bodies, are likely to become wet much faster in the snow. Larger dogs, and those with thick coats, may be able to withstand the colder temperatures for longer periods of time. Certain breeds that are bred to live in colder climates, such as Siberian Huskies and Alaskan Malamutes, have a higher tolerance for the cold. However, all dogs are at risk, so it’s important to be aware of the signs of hypothermia.
Learn more about the signs, treatments and prevention of hypothermia here.
Remember, a little extra care goes a long way in keeping your furry friend having fun and staying safe during the frosty season!