In many parts of the country, people are feeling the first stings of winter. Early morning commuters are already scraping frost off their windshields while furnaces blast around the neighborhood.
And as old man winter has steadily been approaching, most of us have completed our winterizing checklist: storm doors and windows on, buy new snow tires, wrap the AC unit, and put the BBQ and lawn furniture away.
But what about our furry best friends? Don’t forget about them!
Yes, dogs need to be winterized to ensure they have a fun and safe winter. Here are a few things you can do to keep your dog healthy and safe all season long:
Keep Them Warm
Some long-haired breeds like Huskies and Akitas are made for cold weather, but other short-haired dogs like Boxers and Greyhounds… not so much. Small dogs, in particular, are susceptible to cold temps because they have a relatively high ratio of body surface to body weight. This means they lose body heat far more easily than bigger breeds. So, this season, get your dog a stylish coat that will keep them warm on walks, or even just running around in the back yard.
Keep Them Dry
Sure, your dog loves rolling around in the snow, and you love getting a video of them doing it. But once they come inside, be sure to dry them as thoroughly as you can. Would you want to be forced to wear wet clothes all day? No, you’d be very uncomfortable and would most likely get sick. Well, a dog’s coat (their natural coat not the one you buy for them) retains water. This means they can have cold wetness next to their skin for hours and this increases their risk of hypothermia. This is another good reason to have your dog wear a coat outside, to keep snow and cold rain off of them. And, when they come in, be sure to towel off their heads and paws.
Watch Out for Cracked, Dry Skin
Less humidity in the air can mean cracked dry skin for both you and your dog. If you notice your dog itching more during the winter months, consider giving them fish oil with their meals. This not only provides omega-3s for their overall health, but will also help with their dry skin. You can either hide a fish oil capsule in some cheese, or poke a hole in it and drizzle it over their food. Most dogs love the fishiness and will happily gobble it up. Just be careful not to get any oil on your clothing.
Another thing you may want to consider is applying a healing balm specially medicated for animals. If applying it to an area easily reached by your pet, keep an eye on them so they don’t lick it all off.
Kick Their Nutrition Up a Notch
Like people, most dogs become less active during the winter months when it gets colder outside. However, there are some dogs who may become more active in winter months. Much depends on how you as the human behave during the winter.
Those dogs that become less active will need to cut back on calories so they don’t put on excess weight. This is especially true for older dogs who may suffer from arthritis. A sudden weight gain can make it more painful and difficult to move around.
Conversely, if you and your four-legged companion are very active during the winter months, your dog may need more calories. Dogs who spend time running around in the cold burn extra calories to stay warm.
Also, never use metal water bowls outside in the winter, as your dog’s tongue can stick to the cold metal. It was a funny scene in “A Christmas Story,” but it won’t be funny should it happen to your dog. Best to use hard plastic bowls.
Use Only Pet-safe Products
Salt and chemicals used to melt icy steps and sidewalks can pose a threat to your dog’s paws. While you can’t expect your neighbors to use pet-safe ice melts, you should be sure to use them around your own home. And even though these alternatives are not as harsh, they can still irritate your dog’s paws, so be sure to give his paws a good wipe when you come inside.
Antifreeze is deadly to pets, and sadly, they are attracted to its naturally sweet taste. Even just a teaspoon of antifreeze is enough to kill many, and a few licks can make them incredibly sick. Should you suspect your dog or cat may have stepped in antifreeze and licked their paws, take them to your vet immediately.
And, as a precaution, check under your car regularly for leaks and wipe up any pools that may have formed. To be completely safe, use a pet-friendly antifreeze that contains a bittering agent – they won’t be inspired to eat it.
Don’t Force Old or Sick Dogs outside
Vulnerable pets are the most vulnerable to harsh winter conditions and you may find you are struggling just to get your dog to go outside to potty. Putting some wee wee pads down is one option, although, having already trained your dog to go outside, it may be hard to get them to use them.
A better option is to use dog diapers and belly bands. These will catch any urine and feces, so your dog can stay warm and dry while your home stays nice and clean.
Pet Parents® offers washable dog diapers and belly bands in a variety of colors and sizes, so you can be sure to find the right size for your fur baby. If you have any questions or need help measuring your dog, just give us a call. We’re always more than happy to help our customers.