By Kim Gilliam
The arrival of winter raises a wide variety of concerns for dog owners. Cold, wet weather requires you to pay special attention to your pup’s wellbeing to ensure that you both enjoy the season to the fullest. Here are some winter care tips to keep in mind.
Skin and paw protection
Some dogs’ skin and paws can become chapped by cold, dry winter air. While Vaseline or coconut oil are safe to use topically, these can rub off on bedding or carpet; consider adding a skin and coat supplement to their food and using paw protection wax like Musher’s Secret.
Note that pads can also be harmed by chemicals used to melt snow and ice; suggest using paw-safe ice melt plus wiping your dogs’ paws down with a damp cloth or baby wipes after each walk.
For dogs with furry feet, keep the fur between their pads short to prevent ice buildup.
Boots can also help protect feet from rough, chemically treated, and cold surfaces but it can be tricky to find a pair that fit just right; you will want to keep the inside of the boots clean and dry and be sure not to leave them on for an extended period of time.
Coats and blankets
Many dogs can handle colder conditions than humans, but not all dogs are alike. Thick-coated breeds like Huskies acclimate to the cold most easily, although they should be brought inside as soon as they indicate they are ready or you see signs of shivering or anxiety.
Short-haired breeds like Chihuahuas definitely benefit from a coat during winter months — just be sure that it adequately covers from the neck to the base of the tail, protects the belly and does not obstruct movement.
A blanket lining your dog’s bed will provide added insulation and warmth, as will raising their bed off tile or concrete floors. You may also consider electric heating beds or pads, but these always carry a risk of burns so be sure to adhere to manufacturer guidelines.
Limit the use of space heaters and be sure to pet proof your fireplace to avoid injury from your dog snuggling too close to a heat source.
During the colder months, the air is much dryer outside and heaters blasting warm air lower the humidity inside too; this can cause dryness and eye irritation in some dog breeds. Products such as artificial tears can be used to help moisten the eyes but some conditions can become serious quickly, so it is best to consult your vet to determine the cause and treatment.
Even in the cold weather, your dog still needs their daily exercise. Walks during the late morning or early afternoon hours when the sun is shining and temps are a little warmer are ideal, but there are indoor options too. These range from supervised treadmill time, running up and down the stairs to fetch their favorite toy and a mini obstacle course created with household objects (a broom balanced across two chairs for a jump, a sheet covering a coffee table for a tunnel, etc.). Hide small treats around your house for them to find using scent detection.
You can also take this chance to work on basic obedience commands to
tire your pup out mentally. If your dog’s activity level does drop significantly during winter months, consider adjusting their caloric intake accordingly so they don’t pack on extra pounds.
The cold can aggravate existing medical conditions in senior dogs, such as arthritis.
While it’s important to maintain their exercise regimen, be mindful of slippery surfaces and make sure they have a warm soft rest area to recuperate after activity. Consider joint supplements to help ease discomfort and note any changes in behavior, activity or appetite; just like people, dogs are more susceptible to illnesses during
Don’t forget that one of the best ways to beat the cold temps this winter is to spend cuddle time with your furry friend; it will warm your heart too.
Kim Gilliam owns Alexandria’s Frolick Dogs, an indoor dog gym, with her husband, Kevin Gilliam.