Is Your Dog Winter Ready?
When the temperature drops overnight, dogs don’t have the benefit of pulling something out of the closet to wear. While some parts of the country tend to enjoy mild winters, abrupt changes in the weather often leave pets shivering in shock.
Different dog breeds react to cold weather in different ways. Some German shepherds like rain and snow and turn everything into a doggy playground. But short-furred pups like Chihuahuas tend to be heat-seeking missiles eager to burrow into piles of fluffy blankets.
Here’s how to help your dog adapt to the cold and stay safe from potential winter hazards.
Just like every season, winter provides unique dangers to your pup. Watch out for the following in cold weather months:
Stimulate Fur Growth – spend more time outdoors
Acclimate pups gradually to outdoor chills. That stimulates their fur to grow thicker and be more protective. Exclusively indoor pets won’t be as well equipped to spend time outside, so be aware and bring them back inside after only short trips to the bathroom and back.
To get pets used to spend more time outdoors, offer small tastes of cold weather in two to three-hour periods beginning in early Fall. Once the weather drops to the forties or below, a half hour to an hour supervised time outside both morning and evening can help prompt thicker fur growth.
Let’s talk temperature!
Some dog breeds are blessed with thick fur that keeps them warm naturally, even in very cold temperatures, but dogs with thin coats may need to wear a sweater or coat when out for winter walks. A good coat should reach from the neck to the base of the tail and also protect the belly. But remember that coats will not prevent frostbite on the ears, feet or tail … so even with a cozy coat, don’t keep your short haired dog out too long in freezing temperatures.
Offer a Sweater or Coat
Puppies are less cold tolerant because they have less muscle and fat mass than adults. Muscle and fat increase their metabolism and keeps them warm. Puppy coats won’t be as thick or long to offer protection. Little pups have less body mass to generate natural heat, too, and often benefit from a doggy sweater especially when they must do outdoor bathroom duty.
Some dogs with little fur or low body fat don’t easily adapt to cold weather. Older or sickly dogs can be extremely sensitive this time of year as well. If possible, keep your dog indoors or in a warm shelter outside. Sweaters or jackets can give him an extra layer of protection as well.
Teach your puppy or small dog to wear a sweater using the same tips found in this article to help puppies accept costumes.
Give your dog a whole outfit with a sweater and pair of boots! Seriously, though, your dog’s paws are exposed to snow, ice, and salt in the winter, all which could damage his paws or pads. Look out for little snow or ice balls that may get caught in-between his toes or in the foot hair. Iced sidewalks can cause chapped paws as well, and should either be avoided with boots or you should be sure to wash off your pet’s paws after a walk with a warm washcloth. If left unwashed, your dog may lick his dry paws, ingesting the salt, which can lead to gastrointestinal irritation.
Clean Paws and Fur
Exposure to temperatures below zero even short-term can cause frostbite of the feet, nose or ears. Indicators of frostbite may be red, gray or white colorization of the skin and possibly peeling skin. Remove ice and snow from your dog’s paws and fur right away. Ice can form in the toe pads as well so make sure to thoroughly check your pooch’s paws. Also, think about clipping the fur between the pads to reduce the amount of snow that can collect there.
Reduce Fly-Away Fur
Pets often develop dry skin, dull coats, and static-filled fur during the winter as a result of artificial heat from furnaces.
Ask your veterinarian or pet products store about fatty acid supplements which help counteract the drying effects of winter weather.
Combing your pup can create even more static. Instead, you can use a wire hanger to “ground” the charge and get rid of the static. Carefully stroke your dog with the long (smooth) bottom edge of the metal hanger from his neck to tail, and on both sides. Avoid his face or other tender areas.
In addition to limiting your dog’s time outdoors on cold days, don’t let your pooch sleep on a cold floor in winter. Choosing the right bedding is vital to ensure your dog stays warm. Warm blankets can create a snug environment; raised beds can keep your dog off cold tiles or concrete, and heated pet beds can help keep the stiffness out of aging joints. Place your dog’s bed in a warm spot away from drafts, cold tile or uncarpeted floors, preferably in a favorite spot where he sleeps every day so that the area doesn’t feel unfamiliar.