Does your dog love the winter months? Whether your answer is “yes” or “no”, you need to be prepared to protect your furry friend from the cruelties of cold winter days and keep him healthy.
Do not make the mistake of thinking that the coat of fur on your pet’s body will help him tolerate the cold better than you. This is absolutely wrong. Bitter cold, numbing wetness or biting winds can make your dog as uncomfortable as it does you.
In fact, exposure to winter elements can make your pet vulnerable to frostbite or hypothermia and, in some cases, make him severely ill.
Dogs are like babies who need a little extra care during the winter days. Being a responsible dog owner, you need to pay special attention to your pet’s well-being during the winter to ensure that you both enjoy the season to the fullest.
Here are the top 10 tips to keep your dog healthy this winter.
1. Be Sure Your Dog Gets Exercise
Exercise is important for your pet’s health, irrespective of whether it is summer or winter. If your dog prefers to curl up in a cozy corner and sit doing nothing, take steps to get him moving.
A sedentary lifestyle isn’t good for your furry friend. So, throw on a coat or grab an umbrella and take your pet for a walk whenever the weather is okay.
If the weather is not good for a walk, there are plenty of ways to make your dog exercise. For example, a simple game of fetch or hide-and-seek can help your dog get a daily dose of exercise.
You can also create an indoor obstacle course or make your dog run up and down the stairs from time to time.
2. Provide the Right Food
During the winter months, you will have to keep your dog’s diet in mind. The increased calorie requirement to keep the body warm combined with a less active lifestyle can make your pet gain weight quickly. Being overweight is not good for your pet’s health.
For dogs that are active, increase the number of calories you feed them. But if your dog has a tendency to gain weight quickly, opt for low-calorie but healthy foods.
A high-quality, whole foods and preferably raw meat-based diet will help ensure a healthy coat and good energy during the cold winter months.
In addition, you can consult your vet about giving your dog certain supplements that help with digestion or joint pains that may worsen during the winter months.
3. Keep Your Dog Hydrated
Like healthy food, proper hydration is important for your pet, even during the winter months.
In fact, dogs can become dehydrated just as quickly in the winter as they can in the summer. Dehydration can cause dryness as well as impact your pet’s coat health and other health issues.
Even if your dog loves to eat snow, it’s not an adequate substitute for fresh water. So, it is important to keep a good supply of water available to your dog at all times.
If your dog spends time outdoors in your yard, make sure he has access to a water bowl. You must check the water bowl often and break any ice that may form on the top.
4. Offer Winter Wear
If you have puppies at home, bear in mind that they are less cold-tolerant than adult dogs. This is because they have less muscle and fat mass, which play a key role in increasing metabolism and keeping the body warm.
So, to offer protection to puppies, invest in good quality sweaters and jackets. You can get pet winter wear for puppies as well as adult dogs easily in the market. Make them wear winter clothes all the time and especially when going outdoors, even when it is just to do their bathroom duty.
If you are taking your puppy outside for a walk, get him something to wear that has a waterproof nylon cover.
5. Have the Right Bedding
Having the right bedding is very important for your pet’s health, especially during the winter months.
If your pet is sleeping in an outside kennel, there should be a raised and padded bed. This will help prevent cold and dampness from the ground from seeping into the bedding.
If your pet is staying inside, it is important to place your dog’s bed in a warm spot away from drafts, cold tile or uncarpeted floors. You can even get a low platform bed made of a light wood or an aluminum frame with canvas stretched over it to keep your pet off the cold floor.
Along with the right bedding, warm blankets are a must to help create a snug environment.
6. Protect Your Dog’s Paws
During the winter months, your dog’s paws or pads can get damaged from exposure to snow, ice, and salt. Hence, during this time, you need to take extra care of your pet’s paws.
After an outing, check the paws thoroughly. Look for little snow or ice balls that may get caught between his toes or in the hair on his paws. If your dog has furry feet, you can trim the hair that grows between his pads to prevent ice from building up in it.
Also, it’s important to wipe off your pet’s paws after a walk with a warm washcloth.
You can even invest in booties to provide some warmth to your dog’s paws. Booties will also protect your dog from harmful chemicals like deicers.
7. Block Off Heat Sources
Dogs often love to cuddle up or take a quick nap near a fireplace or other heat sources in the home. But you must block access to heat sources to reduce the risk of burns, as pets aren’t aware of how hot they can get.
Instead of space heaters, you can install baseboard radiator covers to prevent your furry friend from getting burned. If you have a fireplace, make sure your pet can’t get too close to it.
To keep the temperature of your house soothing for your pet, keep the humidifier on. Just like for you, it will help prevent your dog from suffering from dry skin. A humidifier is also very beneficial for dogs with respiratory problems. The added moisture on the air will help dogs with chronic coughs or bronchitis to breathe a bit easier.
8. Increase Intervals between Baths
Giving your dog daily baths can dry out the skin, which can cause a lot of discomfort. This is something you can easily avoid by lengthening the intervals between baths.
There is no need to give your pet a daily bath. Cut back on the frequency of baths, and ask your vet to prescribe a shampoo that’s more moisturizing than the average ones.
After bathing, dry your dog thoroughly, especially before allowing him outside.
You can always take your pet to a vet to learn what you can do to keep his coat clean and well-groomed during the winter.
9. Provide Outside Shelter
If it is not snowing outside and you want your dog to stay outside, you need to provide a good and durable outdoor shelter.
Getting wet or sitting in the cold wind will make your dog prone to colds and other illnesses.
When the fur is kept dry, it traps a warm layer of air and helps protect your dog from getting sick.
So, it is important to provide your dog with a doghouse or other shelter. This is important even during moderate temperatures. This will help your dog get used to sleeping in the doghouse and learn to take shelter whenever there is sudden wind, rain or snow.
When making an outdoor shelter, keep the size in mind. It should be only slightly larger than the size of your dog’s body. Also, install a light bulb overhead to help keep the inside even warmer.
10. Don’t Ignore Routine Health Care
Being cold puts extra stress on your dog’s health. This can affect his immunity and make him more susceptible to getting sick.
So, during this time, you must not ignore your pet’s regular health checkup. Remember to keep up to date with vaccinations, too.
For older dogs, the aches and pains of arthritis or old injuries can be exacerbated by cold and inactivity. Medications or supplements can be important in helping prevent discomfort or pain. Consult your vet about appropriate medicines or supplements.
- Dogs stay warm by burning fuel, which means the food they eat. During the winter months, dogs need more calories to generate increased body warmth, too.
- To prevent dogs from developing dry skin, dull coat, and static-filled fur during the winter due to artificial heat from furnaces, give your dog fatty acid supplements. It will help counteract the drying effects of winter. Consult your vet regarding an appropriate dosage for your dog.
- Always clear away the snow in your yard or walkways, and pile it away from fences to prevent your dog from climbing over them.
- Cold weather can aggravate existing medical conditions in older dogs, particularly arthritis. Be prepared to take extra care of older pets.
- When taking your dog for a walk in piles of autumnal leaves or snow, be careful of hidden dangers.
- Don’t encourage your dog to jump on or run after a toy near any water that has iced over. Falling through the ice into the very cold water can cause hypothermia.
- As the visibility is poor in snowy or foggy weather, opt for an LED collar to help you keep an eye on your pet.
- No matter what, never leave your pet alone in the car.
- Keep anti-freeze equipment and chemical deicing products safely out of your pet’s reach.
- Some dogs, especially small or elderly, have difficulty wading through thick snow to go outside. If needed, create an indoor dog bathroom.