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Five Considerations for Dogs in Winter

Winter is coming, and many areas of the country are already feeling the first nips of frost and snow. It can be a cozy time for families and their pets, but it can also be dangerous for animals, including dogs without some knowledge and planning.

You should know some important things as you prepare for winter with your dog—keeping these in the back of your mind will help your dog stay safe and look out for potentially dangerous situations.

1. Fur

There are certain breeds of dogs that cannot wait for the summer heat to pass so they can truly enjoy the icy outdoors in their warm winter coats. These dogs have been known to frolic excitedly through snow and relish long, wintry walks.

However, many dogs are not necessarily equipped to handle cold climates for long periods of time. It’s important to keep an eye on these dogs to make sure they get the exercise and relief they need outdoors without hurting themselves.

When it comes to fur, don’t give dogs trims or try to do a lot of de-shedding. Many dogs have natural insulation that keeps them warm and dry during the winter. Dogs with lighter coats might need additional help in cold temperatures—a dog jacket or special harness can be worn during walks to help them conserve body heat.

Also, don’t let your dog remain wet for too long or sleep on wet bedding in the cold. This can be dangerous for them—always keep them as dry as possible if they are out in the elements.

2. Paws

Dog’s paws can undergo a lot of pain during winter. To prevent as much pain as possible, first keep the hairs in between the pads trimmed short so balls of ice and snow won’t accumulate on them during walks. Some owners help their dogs learn to tolerate booties if they have to walk through slush and snow often.

Second, rinse your dog’s paws with warm water after returning from a walk on sidewalks or roads. Many places use de-icing chemicals on walkways, and these substances can be harmful to your dog if left on their paws. Make sure to clean around the paws.

Third, your dog’s paws may need additional moisture and repair. There are various balms that can assist in this—even Vaseline can work in a pinch.

To make your dog’s bathroom trips safer, try keeping an area of the yard clear by shoveling the snow so that the grass or dirt can be seen. This will help your dog do their business quickly and get less icy while completing it.

3. Stomach

There are several areas of your dog’s eating habits to consider during winter. First of all, dogs may expend more energy keeping themselves warm in cold temperatures, so talk to your vet and see if they recommend feeding your dog extra food in the winter, especially if you spend lots of time outdoors. Other dogs may need to have their food intake reduced to make up for the lack of activity.

 Another thing to look out for is antifreeze—it is more common during the winter, and it is poisonous to animals. Many dogs may lick it up if they find a puddle in the garage or on the street, so you’ll need to keep an eye out for those and keep your dog far away from it.

4. Age

Similar to people, young puppies and older dogs have a harder time regulating their body temperature and may need to be exposed to a cold temperature less than a middle-aged dog. This can be challenging when it comes to bathroom habits. Some owners teach their elderly dogs to use pee pads or boxes, similar to puppies, during the coldest months.

5. Comfort

When not outdoors, make sure your dog has all the comforts of home during the winter months. Keeping your dog indoors for the majority of the day and all of the night is recommended during the winter months.

Make sure that they have a warm and dry bed in a non-drafty part of the room. While making sure this area is cozy, it’s not recommended to use things like space heaters too close to your dog. The house's dryness can also be aggravating to their skin (and yours!) so explore ways to keep some humidity in the air for both of your benefits.

Whether your dog greets the cold with glee or turns around immediately to head back to their warm bed, all dog owners need to be aware during the winter months and keep their dogs safe and healthy.

Following our tips will get you on the right path to enjoying the cold, snowy months with your dog and making sure that they stay healthy and strong. While you may not be able to stick to the rigorous walking routine you started this summer; the winter is the perfect time for extra snuggles and warmth with your best furry friend.

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