Dogs, like us, generally love the change of seasons, from the colorful fall leaves (come on, who doesn’t love to jump and roll around in all those leaf piles?), to the winter wonderland of frost and snow (icicle lolly anyone?). You need to spare a thought for your little buddy while you wrap up warm to go out, as he might have a fur coat, but he’s living in a home with heating, maybe not growing out his best winter coat and the change in temperature is hard on him too.
Keeping your dog healthy in the winter isn't just about keeping him warm. You need to think about your dog's sleeping arrangements, how the dry air will effect his skin and health conditions that can become worse in cold weather (like arthritis).
Don’t forget your dog's feet, either. You’re probably wrapping up good and tight in waterproof boots, but your little guy has to go out in his bare feet. Not usually a problem, I know, but with all of the chemicals on the streets and sidewalks, you need to keep an eye on him.
There are many other things that you need to keep in mind when the winter weather blows in. If you follow these tips, your pup is sure to be safe, comfortable and happy even in the coldest temperatures.
19 Ways to Keep Your Dog Healthy During Winter
1. Try to Bring Home a Dog That Will do Well in Your Climate
Think about your environment before you choose a dog. If you have your heart set on a breed that will struggle in your local area, forewarned is forearmed, just make sure you have contingency plans in place for when the weather turns, and you know your little buddy will struggle.
2. Shelter From The Weather
Most dogs like to spend time in the great outdoors, even if it is only the backyard, but when the weather turns cold, how is he going to cope? You don’t want your dog to be shivering next to the front door waiting to come inside.
Make him a little shelter, pick up a doghouse, or at the very least put out a foam mat and some blankets under an overhang in the yard. Your dog is still going to love being outside, even when it is cold, but, depending on the weather near you, short trips out might be the best thing. Remember, with dog ownership comes responsibility.
3. How to Find Out if Your Dog is Cold
The temperature might be a clue – but some dogs are tougher than others. The best way to tell is to feel the edge of his ear. If his ear feels cold, it’s a pretty good indicator that the rest of him is too. On short haired breeds you can sometimes tell they’re cold by feeling their body but as a rule, I’d recommend the ear test!
4. Make the Most of Good Weather When the Sun Comes out
You know the saying ‘Make hay while the sun shines’? Well, for you and your four-legged-friend, you too should get out for a walk while the sun shines.
Usually, the weather is cold, don’t forget that windchill factor and the nights are drawing in. If you see a little ray of sunshine out there, don’t go making yourself a cup of coffee and sitting in that sunny spot in the house and pretend it’s almost summer, get your coat on and take your dog out.
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5. Dog Beds That Will Keep Your Pooch Warm
People have been giving dogs blankets to lie on for generations but times have changed, as has our knowledge of how best to treat our furry companions. Maybe you’ll want to buy one of the new beds on the market and believe me; the choices are almost limitless! Whether you go for a fancy schmancy doggy condo or just a good old covered pallet, the important thing is that you try to get your dog off of the ground by about 3 inches.
Also, try to have three raised sides to the bed to keep out drafts and put the bed in a warm place. If your dog feels the cold, you could also slip in a heat pack that you’ve heated in the microwave and wrapped securely and don’t forget dogs don’t just lie on sweaters now; they wear them too. Better yet, why not get your little guy some flannel pajamas?
6. Moisturize Your Dog’s Skin to Avoid Chapped Skin
Low humidity coupled with your home heating can play havoc with your skin, making you reach for the moisturizer, but what about your K9 buddy? Yep, he gets dry, itchy skin this time of year too.
This is a problem you can treat from the inside and out, a two-pronged attack as it were, and you probably have everything you need at home right now. Starting externally, give your dog a good brushing and do so regularly between Spring and Fall.
This distributes your dog’s natural oils to help moisturize his coat, and it also promotes circulation which stimulates the production of oils.
Adding olive or coconut oil to your dog’s food is not only a great appetite stimulant, but it also helps your dog achieve a more lustrous coat and softer skin. This is something you need to get into the habit of doing every day, as remembering once every few weeks won’t make any difference! Go ahead, try adding a teaspoonful this winter and see the difference!
7. Staying Hydrated
It’s obvious that your dog needs plenty of water in the summer, but did you know it’s more important in the winter? Humidity is a lot lower in the winter which can contribute to dehydration, couple that with the extra work your dog is doing to exercise and stay warm and your boy is going to need a steady supply of water over the winter.
If you don’t think your dog is drinking as much as he should there are plenty of ways of tempting him to drink more. A low sodium broth (without onions) added to drinking water is very tempting, or maybe your dog likes cucumbers? Try adding a few of those to the water and what a great conversation starter, “Oh, my Fido just loves his cucumber water”!
Plus, you can always add water to his meals. Some dogs don’t like soggy kibble, but starting with a few drops of water and gradually increasing the moisture content should work wonders.
8. Make Sure the Paws Are OK
In very chilly weather your dog’s feet can take a real beating, not only can they develop cracks on the pads, but the chemicals used to keep the streets clear can be very dangerous if ingested. If your pooch is a little fluffball, then the fur that grows between his pads could probably do with a trim, as this additional hair works as a magnet for those chemicals and snow and ice.
Some people massage petroleum jelly into their dog’s pads before a walk and others prefer the more environmentally friendly option of dog boots. Dog boots are a great idea, not only do you get to watch your dog do the moonwalk when he first tries them on, but you know that his feet are protected, warm and have a better grip as he romps around.
9. Watch Out For Frozen Bodies of Water
If your walk regularly takes you near water that is liable to freeze over, unless you know 100% that it’s safe, DO NOT let your dog go on the ice. If you do not have a 100% recall, then keep your dog on a leash. This is a rule, folks.
10. Caring for the Arthritic Dog in Winter
These good old boys just keep getting better, but winter sure is hard on them. Hopefully, you’re adding oil to his diet already, maybe some chondroitin or glucosamine to help lubricate those joints that get even stiffer in the cold weather.
A warm house helps keep those joints warm; he can feel the cold right in his bones. Invest in a sweater or coat; nothing too fashion forward, we don’t want him to feel like a dork, just something appropriate and practical.
Help him out by putting boots on him when he goes for a walk when it’s slippery or wet; the increased traction will help him keep his balance. Maybe now would be a good time to try out one of those new doggy swimming centers, they keep their water at a comfortable 85℉, perfect for old joints.
11. Don’t Trim Their Fur in the Winter
Dogs do not need their fur trimming over the winter, but grooming at any time is a must. Long-haired breeds can still have the odd haircut but make sure you go for a longer trim and fill up your dog's wardrobe with weather-appropriate clothing.
The clothes don’t always have to come from a doggy boutique either. I know of one little Rottweiler who didn’t like the cold, and she was a size 7/8 in children's hoodies.
12. Don’t Overfeed Them Just Because They’re Bored of Being Inside
Excess weight is never good for your dog’s health. If your dog is stuck inside on one too many snow days why not invest in a food dispenser that is brain training at the same time, your dog only gets the treat when he figures out the problem. Mental stimulation can be just as tiring as physical work, keep your dog stimulated with shop bought or homemade toys.
13. Dry Him Off When You Get Home From Walks
Make it a routine that when you come in from your walks, you take off his outerwear, or give him a good rub down with his dog towel.
Clean his feet, dry them off, paying particular attention to the areas between the pads where chemicals and grit can linger. Maybe put on his indoor sweater, put on the kettle, make sure his water bowl is topped up, make a cup of tea and have a biscuit.
14. Don’t Leave Him in The Car
We all know the dangers of hot cars in the summer, but did you know that cold cars are just as dangerous. Once you’ve pulled up at your destination and turned off the heating, the car rapidly cools down, and within a short amount of time, it feels like a fridge.
If left in the vehicle, your dog will start to become uncomfortable, then shivering will set in, and hypothermia can follow soon after.
15. It’s Easier to Get Lost
You know your dog can be a bit of a goofball, and he loves to charge around in the snow, but what if he charged off and in his excitement couldn’t find his way back?
Dogs are the champions of the sniffer world – but the colder it is, the fewer scent markers there are for them to follow. Make sure that his collar fits well, his identity tags are secure, and that he has a microchip.
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16. Fluorescent and Light-Up Collars
Have you seen those doggy disco jackets that light up all along the side of the dog? They’re pretty gosh darned cool, but I’m not saying you have to go that far to enjoy the benefit of a safely illuminated pooch.
A fluorescent collar or jacket is ideal for high traffic areas while a light up collar in more rural areas means you know where your dog is even when visibility isn't as good.
17. Spend More Time Playing Indoors
Oh, the weather outside is frightful!… so stay indoors. Apart from potty breaks outdoors there are plenty of things you can do indoors to give your dog enough exercise. Did you know that balancing is great exercise? Maybe on a little stool or if your dog is very agile on an exercise ball.
Another favorite is a little game of treasure hunt, as not only does it work the body, but it works the mind too. All you have to do is hide something and let your dog find it, start out with hiding something in full sight, so he understands the game, just make it gradually more challenging, you’ll start to look forward to this as much as your dog. Teaching your dog tricks that he looks forward to can get him moving when he’s stuck indoors.
18. Even if Walks are Shorter Make Sure That You go on a Walk Every Day
With the days getting shorter, the cold, and the new Game of Thrones season coming out; there are lots of excuses not to go out, yet even a short walk is better than no walk at all!
Take Fido out for a quick walk, go on, force yourself, when you come back and finally sit down you’ll enjoy it so much more, and with a happy pooch by your side!
19. Consider a Treat Dispensing Device
There are so many toys available for dogs nowadays it must be true what they say, dogs are the new kids, hence the term fur babies. When you’re out at work over the winter – the house gets darker for your stay at home pal, he’s probably spending a lot of time cuddled up in his bed, how about a few toys to keep him stimulated?
Treat dispensing toys are a good option, and there are even options that allow you to control when your dog gets a treat through an app on your Android or iPhone!
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