Winter pet care is important because many pets need more care than usual when the temperature starts to drop. For example, some dogs need more winter care than other dogs, especially if yours is not a cold-weather dog breed or yours is a small dog with a thin coat of fur.
Keeping your dog happy, warm, and healthy this winter should be your top priority, and the good news is that this is very simple to achieve. All you need is to be a little proactive and listen to some sage advice.
Taking care of your pet in the cold can range from simple acts like buying them a doggy jumper or winter booties, to something a little more essential, like ensuring toxins remain out of their reach. In this guide, we take you through everything you need to know about ensuring your dog is safe, healthy, warm and happy this winter season.
Winter Pet Care: Keeping Your Dog Warm and Healthy
Every dog is different, and some are better able to handle the winter months than others. If you have a breed of dog that was built for the cold (think cold-weather dog breeds such as huskies and malamutes), you don’t need to worry as much about their time in the cold - especially since they will be begging you to sleep outside anyway.
However, other breeds, like whippets and chihuahuas, are less equipped to deal with declining temperatures and are more prone to the cold. For breeds like this, who have a single coat instead of a double coat, it is essential that you take extra precautions to keep them healthy in addition to regular pet care.
Protect Your Dog’s Paws and Ears
This applies to all dogs, even the ones that were made for the snow. The paw pads are highly susceptible to the cold, and it is easy for them to become sore, chapped, or frostbitten. While cold-weather breeds have masses of extra hair between each of the pads on their paws to protect them from this, a layer of vaseline on the pads offers them extra protection.
For dogs who have no natural protection (and even those who do), a pair of dog boots can help keep their feet off the cold ground and ensure they don’t get sore - especially if they are going to be walking long distances.
All breeds have thinner fur around the ears, so it is a good idea to put sunscreen on them if your dog is going to be out in the cold for an extended period of time. The winter sun is especially harsh and can burn your dog’s ears if they are out in it for too long.
Get Your Dog a Jumper or Doggie Coat
For dogs with very thin coats who naturally get chilly in the winter, a jumper is a perfect solution. There is nothing wrong with a doggy jumper to keep them warm, especially for dogs who are naturally attuned to warmer climates. A jumper provides plenty of warmth to keep them toasty, and they come in a whole range of styles and designs so that you can find something fun.
Give Your Dog a Warm Bed
The floor is where it’s coldest, and this will have an effect on your dog’s temperature throughout the winter. While the weather is cold, make sure your dog’s bed has plenty of layers to keep it off the floor so that they can take full advantage of the heat provided by it. Ensure they have some nice warm blankets as well, giving them the opportunity to snuggle up and get comfortable.
Warm Your Dog Up After a Walk in the Cold
Below are some great tips for ensuring it’s quick and easy to warm your dog up after a walk in the cold winter conditions:
- Turn up the heat before you leave for your walk
- Upon returning, use a blow dryer on a low setting to warm your dog up (if your dog is comfortable with that)
- Put the dog blankets on your dog’s bed in the dryer before you leave for your walk. This way, you can put warm blankets fresh out of the dryer on your dog bed for your dog to curl up on and warm up.
If it’s Too Cold for You, it’s Probably Also Too Cold for Them
Once again, this is something that applies to most dogs but not necessarily to those who were built for the winter. However, the general rule is that if it’s too cold for you to go outside without a jacket, it’s going to be too cold for them as well. No dogs have died from skipping a few walks, but plenty have died because of exposure to outdoor temperatures.
Don’t Leave Dogs in Cold Cars
We normally associate not leaving the dog in the car with the summer months, but it can be just as dangerous in the winter. When you close the car and leave your dog inside, they are essentially sitting in a refrigerator that is getting colder and colder by the minute. This can lead to serious health concerns, and it could kill them if you leave them long enough.
Never Shave Your Dog in the Winter
When it comes to winter pet care, there are grooming faux-pas in the winter. If you have a double-coated breed of dog, then you should never shave them - even in the summer. This is because their coats naturally regulate their temperature according to the season and the conditions outside, and it’s why it’s so important as a form of winter pet care.
For any breed of dog (regardless of coat type), shaving them in the winter is cruel and unnecessary. It exposes their skin to the cold and takes away the layer of protection they have to try and stay warm. Imagine if someone took your winter coat and forced you to stand outside in the middle of winter in a t-shirt and shorts. That’s the equivalent of shaving your dog.
Feed Your Dog a Little Extra in the Winter
Your dog needs meat on their bones and fat to stay warm and happy in the winter. Everyone’s body works a little harder than normal to stay warm in the winter, and the same goes for your dog. While the weather is colder, consider putting a little extra food in their bowls at mealtimes or giving them an extra treat. This helps give your dog the additional energy they need to keep warm since they will be burning more calories than they would in the spring or summer.
Keep Dogs on a Leash in Snow and Ice
It can be tempting to let your dog off the leash and watch them race through the snow, but this should only be done in a secure and enclosed area (fenced off). This is because it’s incredibly easy for dogs to get lost in snowy conditions, especially if a snowstorm occurs while you are out. Keep them on a leash while you’re out in the snow, and you’ll both stay safe.
Watch For Signs You Need to Cut the Walk Short (Signs Your Dog is Too Cold on a Walk)
When you’re out on a walk with your furry friend, you might be wondering how you can tell that they are getting a little too cold. It’s important to watch out for the signs so that you can turn back and get them warm again.
You should look out for the following signs it’s time time to take your dog home:
- Anxious behavior such as hunched posture, tail tucked or ears pinned back
- Shaking or shivering
- Whining, crying, or barking
- Trying to turn back or not wanting to walk further
- Repeatedly lifting paws off the ground
Keeping your dog warm, healthy, and happy this winter is simpler than you might think, and these winter pet care tips will have your dog toasty warm in no time. The cold weather is difficult for us all, but we have to remember that our dogs feel it too.
You might also want to try a pet DNA test from CirclePaw. This DNA test for dogs tells you everything you need to know about their genetic traits and breed, so that you can do everything possible to keep them in excellent health. This includes any genetic propensities that you might want to watch out for and knowing the breeds found in your mixed breed can help you prepare for winter.
- Hills Pet, Leaving a Dog in the Car: Hot & Cold Temperature Concerns:
- PetMD, How Much Should You Feed Your Dog in Fall and Winter?: https://www.petmd.com/blogs/thedailyvet/ken-tudor/2014/october/how-much-should-you-feed-your-dog-fall-and-winter-32085