How to Keep Your Dog Healthy in Winter

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:ย shivering, shallow breathing, weak pulse or lethargy.ย 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.

When the weather turns cold, it's time to take a little extra care with keeping your furry friend healthy and safe. This post tells you everything you need to know about keeping your dog healthy in the winter!

How do you keep your dog healthy in winter?

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  • My dogs can’t handle the cold. In and out for bathroom breaks only unless it’s over 35!

    Pet salt melt is huge!

    • Gatsby is just the opposite! He loves the snow so much. I usually have to call him in from outside because he wants to stay out and play.

  • Awww Gatsby! I miss that little guy! I hope I get to see him when I come down to FL! Chloe wears a sweater in the winter when my mom takes her on walks. She hates it, but it keeps her warm. I think Sandy also sticks her on the treadmill occasionally if she’s cooped up inside for too many days in a row haha she loves it, surprisingly.

    • I think I remember you telling me about Chloe on the treadmill! hahaha, I love it. Gatsby gets stir crazy if he’s in the house too much. Even if it’s cold out, he wants to be out playing in the snow. Usually I have to be the “big-bad-mom” and call him inside because I’m so afraid I’ll leave him out there and he’ll turn into a doggie icicle!! ๐Ÿ™
      p.s. Gats will definitely be in FL! yay!

  • UncJ

    Kit was a pretty tough outside doggie!!