Keeping your dog healthy in winter may not be as tricky to those living in the southern US states, but here in the Midwest a few extra steps and precautions should be taken to ensure your furry friend stays warm and healthy all winter long. Many of the things that plague humans in the wintertime: dry hair and skin, colds and flu can also plague your dog as well. All of these things can be easily avoidable by making a few changes to your dog’s daily routine.
Winter Friendly hair-do
Gatsby has long hair by nature, but in the summer months I keep his ‘do short so he doesn’t have to roast in the summer heat. In the winter months I skip hair cuts to give him a little extra warmth when he does go outside.
Consider Winter outerwear
If you have a dog with a naturally short coat (Greyhounds, Chihuahuas, Bulldogs, etc.,) consider investing in a quality sweater or coat for their outdoor trips. These types of dogs don’t get any relief from the cold from their coat so having an extra layer can really benefit them.
Be mindful of their paws
Salt and cold air can take their toll on the pads of your dogs feet. Check your dogs feet for signs of cracking or irritation. Dog boots are a good option to protect paws from salt and cracking.
Be Cautious of frozen bodies of water
It’s so easy to see a lake or a river and think it’s frozen solid at first glance. You wouldn’t run out on to a frozen body of water without knowing for a fact that it’s frozen solid, so don’t let your dog do it either. A dog falling through ice can be a potentially fatal accident.
Use Pet Friendly Ice Melters
Salt and ice-melters can act as a skin irritant. If you are using regular ice melters on your driveway or walk-way, make sure to wash your pet’s feet off after coming indoors. I know I can’t commit to remembering to wash Gatsby’s feet off every time he goes outside, so I just buy and use only pet friendly salt on my driveway and walkway.
Limit time outdoors
Gatsby spends considerably less amount of time outdoors in the winter time than he does in the summer months. Exercise is extremely important for a dog no matter what time of the year, but in the winter I try to limit his time outside at no more than 20 minutes at a time.
Change outdoor plans when necessary
On ridiculously cold days I heavily limit Gatsby’s time outside. For example, for the past 3 days in Wisconsin the temperature has not gotten above 3 degrees fahrenheit and the windchill has hovered right around -17. On days like these Gatsby only goes outside for potty breaks.
Mind their Mani and Pedi
In the summertime Gatsby goes on daily walks and runs with me. Rough surfaces act as a natural file for his toenails. In the wintertime he lacks that daily contact with rough surfaces, so his nails tend to grow a little longer. I usually ask my Vet to give them a trim when he goes in for his winter check-up.
Keep your dog away from your fireplace or space heater
A lot of us use fireplaces or space heaters to keep warm in the winter months. Make sure there is some way to keep your pet safe from these extremely hot objects. Pets also love to be warm and cozy and they can be drawn to the heat of a nice warm fireplace.
Never leave your dog in the car for a long period of time
Leaving a dog trapped in a car in the winter months can be just as deadly as in the summer months. Cars can act like refrigerators in the winter, sealing the cold air in. Never leave your dog in a car for long periods of time.
Know the signs of Hypothermia and frostbite
Just like humans, dogs are susceptible to frostbite and hypothermia in extremely cold temperatures. Also, similarly to humans, their extremities (ears, noses, and toes) are the body parts most likely to be effected. Hypothermia symptoms include: shivering, shallow breathing, weak pulse or lethargy. Signs of frostbite include: discolored skin (red, pale, or grayish) swelling, or blisters. If you notice any of these symptoms contact your veterinarian immediately.
Consider changing food portions
This is totally based off your dog and their needs. I know Gatsby doesn’t get nearly the exercise in the winter that he does in the summer, but I also know that his body burns more calories in the winter trying to stay warm. If your dog engages in a lot of outdoor activity consider increasing their food portions for the winter months.
know what your dog can handle
Puppies, senior dogs, and dogs with certain diseases can not handle cold temperatures to the extent that other dogs may be able to. Be aware of your dogs age and overall health state and adjust your time outdoors with them in the winter months accordingly.