You and your dog aren't that different. You already mirror each other in personality, and once winter arrives, you both feel the cold in varying degrees.
You and your dog also share exposure risks: Too much time outdoors makes your pup vulnerable to frostbite and hypothermia. As such, keep the following in mind as the days grow colder:
Adjust Your Dog's Diet
Dog diets are often seasonal in relation to activity level. Thus, if your pet wants to play outside, make sure it's consuming enough calories, vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids, to handle running through the snow.
On the other hand, if you have an older dog or one more likely to stay indoors this time of year, realize that decreased activity level over the next couple of months calls for fewer calories.
In all cases, make sure to supply your dog with enough hydration to keep its energy levels up and lessen the risks for cracked, chapped paws.
Grooming for Winter Weather
Winter generally means dry, cold conditions. For your dog, these factors can lead to dry, cracked and flaking skin. As a result, you're advised to bathe your dog less during these months.
However, if you intend to take your dog outdoors on occasion:
- Trim the hair around your dog's toes to limit the amount of dirt, ice and salt it picks up.
- Trim its nails, so that your pup has enough traction on slippery surfaces.
- Coat your pet's paws in a moisturizing, protective balm to limit contact with salt and other chemical deicers. Eye Envy® On the Paw Therapy Balm uses an all-natural solution to block out these substances and keep your dog's skin hydrated.
- Clean off - including washing and towel-drying - your dog's paws once you return from a walk outdoors.
- Regularly check your dog's paws for debris, redness, cracking and irritation.
- Continue maintaining your dog's coat, so that it has enough insulation for trips outdoors.
Watch for Sources of Burns
Along with watching for deicer and other sources of chemical burns, limit your dog's access to heat-generating sources, including fireplaces, heat lamps, space heaters, radiators and vents. You may need to keep your pet in a fenced-in area or create a barrier around these objects and areas.
Provide Your Dog with Warm Bedding
This time of year, you likely pile on layers and blankets at night, and your dog isn't any different. While you want to decrease contact with heat sources, you also need to ensure your dog has a warm, comfortable place to sleep, especially if it's older or living with arthritis.
To do this:
- Offer your dog multiple blankets in addition to its typical bed.
- Move its bed away from tile, concrete and uncarpeted floors.
- Keep its sleeping area away from doors and other drafty areas.
Prepare for Walks Outdoors
Once winter arrives, walking outdoors isn't a quick and casual affair with your dog, even if it's just relieving itself
To protect it from prolonged exposure to cold and deicing solutions:
- Have your dog wear boots: Dog boots for winter provide protection against the cold, salt, chemical deicers and sharp balls of ice. Especially consider boots if your dog has a habit of licking its paws - which could result in ingesting deicer and anything else it picks up.
- Protect your dog against frostbite risks: While long-haired breeds better handle winter's plunging temperatures, all dogs risk frostbite to the paw area. In turn, shorten your time outdoors, and make sure your pet has a set of dog boots on. Frequent short outdoor excursions help your dog better adapt to the weather than longer walks.
- Gauge around age: Older dogs experience difficulties regulating their body temperature in cold conditions and are more likely to live with stiff joints, arthritis or another health condition. Due to these factors, keep older dogs primarily indoors during the winter months. Realize, too, that puppies have yet to acclimate to the cold, and should only be outdoors for short periods.
- Time it: If your dog wants to go outdoors, plan your trip during daylight hours - preferably later in the morning or early afternoon, as the sunlight will deliver more warmth.
- Dress your dog for the weather: Your dog's coat is not enough, especially if you have a short-haired breed. Make sure your dog has a winter coat or sweater to trap body heat before it spends time outdoors.
- Pay attention to activity level: More movement helps your dog stay warm. Avoid having it go off-leash in winter: You don't know what your dog will encounter, especially if it starts running ahead. Risks range from patches of ice to frozen lakes to running into traffic.
- Know the signs of frostbite: Your dog's frostbite risks increase when it starts feeling cold. Along with noticing ice crystals form on your pup, look for gray or pale-colored skin that feels cold, and take it inside immediately to warm up.
- Be alert to hypothermia: Dogs that spend too much time outdoors or that have circulation issues are more at risk for hypothermia. Signs include shivering, lethargy, stiff muscles, cold ears and feet and a slower breathing rate. Your dog may eventually become unresponsive.
Know the Signs of Anti-Freeze Exposure
For pets, as well as small children, anti-freeze looks colorful and tastes sweet. An amount no larger than a teaspoon can trigger kidney failure in your dog.
Keep this chemical locked away in the home or garage, and never use it on your driveway, sidewalk or grounds as a deicer. Know the signs in case your dog ingested this substance on your property or while out for a walk:
- Extreme thirst
- Appearing disoriented
Should you notice any of these signs, make an emergency appointment with your veterinarian to get your pet checked out.
Prepare for a Blizzard
Don't forget about your dog as you stockpile food and other supplies. To prepare for a blizzard:
- Make sure your dog has enough blankets and layers on hand to stay warm.
- Have a source of water ready.
- Make sure you have at least two weeks' worth of dog food and any medications.
- Think about games and other activities you can play indoors.