5 Ways to Keep Your Dog Safe This Winter
Most dogs have such a happy, ready-for-anything personality, so sometimes it’s hard to get them to change their daily routine according to the weather. But if you live in a cool or snowy region, it’s important to take a few extra precautions to keep your furry friend safe this season.
Here are five tips to keep in mind when the mercury drops and the ground grows slick.
1. Know Your Dog
In cooler weather, no dog should be left outside for long. But there’s such a wide discrepancy in dog shapes and sizes that some are better suited for winter than others. For example, a thick-coated huskie or fluffy collie might dream all year of that first romp in the snow, while a greyhound or pug wants no part of it. Aside from breed, a quick physical assessment should reveal your pup’s aptitude for winter; senior dogs, those with very short coats or little body fat, or dogs of a petite stature are probably happier passing winter days indoors.
All dogs need some exercise, so when you must go out, always opt for shorter walks during the warmest parts of the day. Some dogs enjoy the warmth of a doggie sweater. It’s important to keep a close eye on your furry friend while outdoors, and abort the mission at any signs of distress like shivering, chattering teeth, whining, unusual panting, or obvious efforts to get back inside.
2. Watch Their Waistline
Just like people, dogs are a less active during the cooler, darker winter months of the year. Help your pup avoid facing a diet come springtime by minimizing winter weight gain.
If you haven’t been measuring his meals, now is a good time to grab a measuring cup and see how much he’s been eating. Consult with your vet for advice; manufacturers’ feeding recommendations sometimes run high.
The between-meal snacks are usually the cause of weight gain. While your dog may disagree, always avoid table scraps. Offer only high-quality, protein rich treats, and consider breaking them in half of thirds, thereby reducing their daily treat intake. Some dogs enjoy vegetables, like raw carrot or green beans. See what healthy snacks your dog enjoys, first checking The Humane Society’s list here to make sure they’re safe.
Or, consider making your own treats — a fun winter day project for both of you. Check out our article 5 DIY Dog Treats Your Dog Will Love for some simple recipes.
If weather limits outdoor exercise, keep your pup moving with indoor games, like hide and seek, playing fetch down a hallway, or encouraging him to take the stairs.
Dry air, heat, wind and cold can irritate your dog’s coat, paws and nose, just like it does human skin. If your dog seems itchy and dry (look for signs of increased itching and scratching), check with your vet to rule out a skin problem. If it’s just winter to blame, try some natural ways to combat dryness, such as incorporating fish oil supplements or coconut oil into their diet. Topical soothers include coconut oil or apple cider vinegar. And even though they may not be panting after walks with thirst like they do in summer, always supply your dog with plenty of fresh, filtered water.
4. Watch for Snowball Feet
Playtime in the snow can be great fun for a dog — until those pesky little balls of snow and ice start to accumulate on their paws. More common to furrier breeds, the problem occurs when ice and snow sticks to the fur on the bottom of their paws, eventually making walking uncomfortable. If your dog sits down and starts biting or licking his paws, it’s time to head indoors, help him to warm up, and gently rub the snow off his feet with a warm towel. If his paws are irritated, a soothing rub of coconut oil may help.
Avoid the problem by being more vigilant about trimming in snowy weather; keeping the fur between their toes and pads short will help minimize ice buildup.
5. Lock Away the Harmful Chemicals
Some chemicals important to humans’ safety in winter are potentially dangerous to your pooch.
Regular ice melts contain chemicals which can cause burning and discomfort to your dog’s exposed paws. Further problems arise if your dog licks their feet, thereby ingesting unwanted chemicals. Look for pet-friendly ice melts (click here for some great options), or use plain sand or bird seed, to treat slippery surfaces.
If you live in an area where roads are frequently treated, consider purchasing dog boots. After an unprotected walk, wipe off their paws with a warm, damp towel.
Anti-freeze is another dangerous chemical. Ethylene glycol, an ingredient in anti-freeze and also in hydraulic brake fluid, is toxic to your dog’s brain, liver and kidneys. Safeguard your pup by making sure your car does not leak any fluids — even a small amount licked off a driveway can be lethal. Tightly cap and store these bottles on high shelves or in locked cabinets. Seek pet-friendlier formulas (like this one) which contain a bitter tasking agent that repels curious noses.
Winter can be both fun and challenging to dog, but with a few guidelines in place, your pup will be basking in spring’s mild temperatures in no time.
Debbie Swanson is a freelance writer, published in numerous national and local outlets. An avid vegetarian, animal lover and reader, she loves learning about healthy eating and finding natural cures for everyday ailments.