KEEPING YOUR DOG HEALTHY AND HAPPY IN WINTER
We prepare for the cold weather by bringing our coats, scarves, hats, gloves and boots out of storage. However, many pet owners are under the mistaken impression that because their dogs have a coat of fur they are able to tolerate the cold better. This isn't necessarily so. Your dog is used to the warmth of indoors, and the cold weather can be tough on him. Just like you, your dog needs a little extra care come winter-time.
Dress For Success
Sweaters look cute on dogs, and in winter they become more a requirement than an accessory. Especially for short haired dogs, and when you take your puppy for a walk. Make sure to get a sweater or doggie coat with a high neck and coverage all the way to the belly. If you're going to be walking your dog regularly in the snow, we suggest a pair of doggie boots, so that the salt and other substances used to melt snow on the sidewalks doesn't hurt his paws. This way your dog will be warm and safe as well as fashion forward. Furthermore, if you can walk him when the sun is shining, all the better.
You may find that in winter your dog's coat is more tangled or matted. Ungroomed, matted fur doesn't retain as much heat and won't adequately protect your pup from the harsh elements. Plus the dry winter air can leach the moisture from his skin and coat. You can get your dog some supplements to help keep his skin and fur healthy. Of course, regular brushing will stimulate natural oil production. Also, check and clean his paws regularly after he's been outside. Compacted snow or ice can lodge between paw pads and turn into sores or even frostbite. Wipe off your pet's paws so that he's comfortable.
We know you give your dog nothing but the best, however their nutritional needs change with the seasons. If your dog spends more time outdoors, then he will likely require extra calories to generate enough body heat to keep warm. Depending on the breed of dog you have, provide more food in the winter accordingly. Also, fresh water is a must, and if the food and water is also kept outdoors then ensure the drinking water hasn't frozen. Remember, dogs cannot eat snow as a source of water, and they will need to be hydrated in winter as well, and not only in summer.
Not all dogs like to get under the covers. But on cold days, they will curl up on a warm surface. Choosing the right bedding is essential to ensure your puppy is warm. A few warm blankets will create a snug environment, or you could invest in a heated pet bed. Keep your dog's bed away from drafty areas of the house and put a blanket down in one of his favorite spots, so he's not lying on a cold floor.
Now that you know what to do, let's talk about what not to do. There are two serious cold weather conditions that you should be aware of, and take care to prevent. Learning the warning signs will ensure you can get your dog out of the cold and back into the warmth of the house.
- Frostbite - When your dog's body gets cold, it automatically pulls blood from the extremities to the center in an attempt to stay warm. So the ears, paws and tail can get so cold that ice crystals can form in the tissue. Frostbite is tricky however, because it's not immediately obvious. If at any time you suspect that your dog is suffering from frostbite, look out for pale or grey skin, or skin that is hard and cold. Frostbite can be extremely painful.
- Hypothermia - This occurs when your dog spends too much time in the cold, or gets wet when the temperature has dropped. Signs of mild hypothermia are your dog shivering and cold ears and feet. If the symptoms have progressed to lethargy and weakness, stiff muscles and slowed breathing, then it's advanced and could be life threatening.
It is important to be attentive to all the concerns that severe winter weather can bring. Being a responsible pet parent means that you have to pay special attention to your best friend's well being during winter. Just a few tweaks to your dog's daily routine and a little extra care from you will allow you and him both to enjoy the cold weather and keep warm. Don't forget the winter cuddles!