You can see your breath the moment you step outside, exposed skin goes numb and the world is lightly frosted with natures icing. Yep, Winter waited for a little while to show itself but it certainly has arrived. It’s a given that dogs feel the ‘brrr’ of the cold too but did you know that as a dog owner there are a few simple actions that will help keep your dog stay safe and comfortable during the winter weather?
Dry dogs are happy dogs
The joys of colder seasons. Regardless of rain or shine, you’re pretty much guaranteed the delighting tasks of removing belly mud, cleaning dirty paws and unwillingly gaining the aroma of wet dog. Oh, and brace yourself for the enviable ‘dog shake’ that happens every single time you return to the house after a walk. All this aside and appealing as it may be to choose the easy option to let your canine ‘air-dry,’ it’s not the best idea. Aim to dry your dog when returning from a walk, focusing particularly on those hard to reach areas such as the armpits, ears and in-between paws. A wet dog is more prone to fungus growth in between the paw pads, ear infections or can gain skin irritations such as hot spots. If a dog with long hair or an undercoat is left to air dry, it can cause matting of the fur and increases the risk of bacteria based complaints. Dogs with longer ears such as Spaniels particularly need to have their ears dried to avoid infections. Further bonuses for drying your dog include your house remaining clean, the benefit of bonding with your four-legged friend and peace of mind that your dog is comfortable and warm. It also conditions your dog to accept being handled from nose to tail and can help set a good precedent for vet visits.
Wrap up warm
Certain breeds are blessed with thick coats designed to keep the heat in and the chill out. However, there are those breeds who are not so versatile. Smaller breeds with thin coats such as Chihuahuas or Italian Greyhounds are more likely to shake from being exposed to the cold so it’s a good idea to purchase a doggy coat to help keep in the warmth. Search for coats that are water-resistant, fleece lined and have reflectors or lights that make your dog easy to spot in the dark. My girls, Daisy and Crunchie love their matching red warmers – it means they can easily hold onto each other whilst running around like hooligans. Don’t forget to add a light to your dog’s collar or coat too. If like me, you tend to wander around the Haarlemmerhout in the dark with your canine companions off leash, you need a little light to ensure that not only you know your dogs’ whereabouts, but also passers-by and cyclists.
Paws for thought
It’s easy to imagine all the different textures and surfaces that your dog’s paw pads are exposed to when out and about. From the Haarlem city concrete and cobbles to the sinking mud and grass. With freezing temperatures, those good old trucks ensure they deposit enough grit so humans are able to walk without slipping. Fortunate for us but not so fortunate for our furry friends. This grit is primarily made from rock salt and can contribute to blisters and your dog’s paw pads cracking or drying out if not removed or cleaned away properly. By ensuring nails and fur between the paw pads are kept trimmed you will reduce the amount of grit, ice or snow that will cling to your dog’s fur. This can cause walking to become a painful activity as the ice or snow will become very compact just as it does on the bottom of your shoes. You can apply Vaseline, coconut oil (topically) or specially formulated doggy balm to your dog’s pads to prevent them drying out and to keep them supple. ‘Dog booties’ are also an option that is becoming increasingly popular. I tried these once with Nero – he would not walk a step and pulled them off in under a minute.
Your dog probably spends an adequate amount of time sleeping. Whether that be in a designated bed, the floor or the sofa, it’s a clever idea to make sure the areas your pup predominately sleeps are warm (but not too hot.) Ensure there are no draughts and consider raising their bed off the floor or placing a blanket underneath if you have wooden or laminate flooring. It may also be beneficial for your dog if you place an extra blanket on their bed. Try to place your dog’s resting space away from the burning fire or radiator heat as this can be more irritable than pleasant.
Aches and pains in seniors
Colder weather will often aggravate existing medical conditions in dogs, particularly arthritis. However, it’s still extremely important to maintain regular exercise. Ensuring that your dog stays away from slippery surfaces and that they have a comfortable location to rest after walking will help keep your pet more comfortable. It’s good practice to add a joint supplement to your dogs’ diet that will help lubricate joints and ease effects of such diseases if you haven’t already. I currently add mobility supplement to my dogs’ breakfast every morning as recommended by my vet. Once mixed in with their kibble, they don’t notice!
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