The winter holiday provides a great opportunity for you to spend quality time with your loved ones including pets. Whether it’s taking long walks together or playing in the park, you should always take extra care to protect her from the elements when she ventures out. Unfortunately, a good number of pet owners believe that all animals with fur can tolerate cold weather better than their human counterparts, which isn’t always true. In fact, too much exposure to cold weather can lead to disastrous consequences like frostbite and hypothermia.
Luckily, by following these 10 simple tips you can keep your pet safe however cold the season might get
Jump to Section
While furry dogs are able to endure extreme weather conditions, dogs with thin coats, puppies, senior dogs, and dogs with medical conditions require extra measures to keep them warm even if you’re only taking a short walk outside. Tiny dog breeds, in particular, have a difficult time retaining body heat so they’ll definitely need a sweater or coat when they’re outside during winter months. When dressing your pooch ensure she’s covered from her neck to the base of her tail as well as her tummy.
The late morning or early afternoon is usually the ideal time to take your dog for a walk outside, as temperatures get a little warmer during this time. Don’t forget that sunshine gives both you and your pet plenty of vitamin D which helps boost your health. It’s a well-documented fact that direct sunlight triggers important metabolic pathways your dog which is important for his overall health.
When it comes to suitable temperatures you’ll want to keep those walks outside 15 to 30 minutes long. Research shows that medium to large dog breeds can withstand 30 minute walks, provided the temperature is above 20 degrees F. Smaller dogs, on the other hand, shouldn’t be out walking for more than 20 minutes if temperatures are below 20 degrees F. Needless to say, no dog should go out for a walk in freezing temperatures.
A number of pet experts describe dogs are “denning” animals, meaning they’re naturally programmed to sleep or rest in small and confined spaces that make them feel warm and safe. To this end, every pet owner should ensure their pup has good linens to bed in. This may be a blanket, sheet, bath towel or even a fluffy rug. You may also consider providing a raised bed for your pooch, or even a heated bed to ward off pain in the joints for more senior dogs. Whatever type of bed you choose, always ensure it’s kept away from drafts. If possible position the bed in an area that’s familiar to help her settle in faster.
Just like their pet guardians, dogs enjoy the feeling of warmth on a cold night, so it’s not odd to see them snuggling up close to the fireplace or heater. These areas can pose a threat to your dog’s safety so you need to keep them completely cordoned off especially if you have a nosy pet. Apart from causing burns, fireplaces produce carbon monoxide fumes which when inhaled can be fatal to your dog, that’s why it’s important to monitor your pooch closely as she lies by the fireplace to avoid accidents.
It’s quite natural for your dog to experience skin dryness during winter. That’s because the cold and dry air outside causes water in his skin to evaporate faster, leaving it dry and tight, and looking flaky. In severe cases, dry skin can lead to itchiness and even bleeding. If your dog suffers from dry itchy skin, you should provide him with a skin supplement such as coconut oil, and also use a soap-free moisturizing shampoo whenever you bathe him. This will keep his skin healthy and well moisturized.
In certain ways dogs can behave like people or bears during winter - they tend to hibernate more and exercise less. As a consequence, they burn fewer calories. The irony is we all need calories to protect us against the cold, but at the same time, we must avoid accumulating unhealthy fat. The same goes for your pooch, you have to ensure her calorie intake is well balanced to suit her lifestyle. Remember indoor canines require less food during winter compared to outdoor dogs who need calories to burn so as to keep themselves warm. So it may not be such a bad idea to feed your outdoor pet more to help her stay warm and hydrated during the winter. Increasing the fat and protein content in her diet is one of the recommended ways of keeping your pup’s coat healthy during the winter, just make sure she doesn’t become obese in the process.
Contrary to what many people think, winter exposes your dog to a greater risk of getting dehydrated. However, eating snow may not necessarily supplement your dog’s need for fresh water. It’s therefore advisable to keep the water bowl filled every time to replenish your pup whenever he’s thirsty. Make sure you check it regularly to break up any ice that may form on the surface. This is especially important for small puppies who may not be able to do it by themselves.
While providing warm clothing and cozy bedding is a good way of keeping your pooch comfortable during winter, it does create the added responsibility of having to make sure these items are always clean. Washing her sweaters and bedding regularly is a must if you want to keep parasites like fleas at bay. If your dog is long-haired, it might not be wise to shave him; however, you should trim his coat and groom him regularly to discourage snow and ice building up on his fur. Don’t forget to take care of her paws as well. Ice easily accumulates between the paws, especially after winter walks, not to mention building up of winter salt which can be toxic to her pads. Make a point of rinsing her paws or wiping them with a cloth after every trip outside to maintain hygiene. Making her wear the dog booties can also save you a lot of hassles too.
No matter how big and strong your dog is, or how much fur she’s got, man’s best friend still needs protection from cold weather. If you happen to reside near a water body like a pond or lake, which is prone to freezing during the winter, you need to be careful during your walks with him. Be on the lookout for any danger whenever you let him off his leash because he can easily fall while running and break or fracture his bones. Like humans, dogs can also fall through the ice which can be fatal.
Most pet owners will agree that younger dogs can spend all day running outside in the snow. However, as they grow older, they become more vulnerable to cold weather because they simply aren’t able to regulate their body temperature as well as their younger counterparts. Old injuries can become a recurring problem, making winter a miserable time for them. But it doesn’t always have to be this way. There’s a lot you can do to reduce their discomfort like providing your dog with a comfortable place to rest, ensuring he’s on a healthy diet and engaging him in light exercises.
A good way to tell if the weather is uncomfortably cold for your dog is feeling her around the ears to check her temperature. Cold ears, especially around the edges, may be an indicator that your dog’s too cold and that you should get her indoors and cover her with a blanket. Touching her body is also another good way to tell if it’s too cold. If her body feels colder than usual it’s highly likely she’s also uncomfortably cold. You should also look out for changes in her behavior such as shivering, increased anxiety, whining, walking slowly or holding up a paw or two. You may also notice her seeking out warm locations, meaning it’s time to get her inside the house.
When taking care of your pet during winter it’s important to remember that temperature isn’t the only environmental factor that influences how cold your dog feels. Other variables such as wind chill, rain, and how active your dog plays a major role determining how much cold your dog experiences. If you own a smaller dog breed, you should be more sensitive to any drop in temperature, as they tend to be more vulnerable than larger breeds. However, this shouldn’t stop you from having fun with your furry friend this winter. Happy holidays!
When not writing about himself in the third person, Andy spends many an hour walking his mischievous, mixed breed rescue dog Mr Wox, aka Soxy Woxy. A leading authority on dog-related topics, Andy is highly respected, deeply appreciated and widely admired.