6 Tips to Keep Your Dog Healthy This Winter

The weather is getting cold. Curl up by the fire and wake up to a sight full of surprises, or a world about to be transformed by snow. While the season can be fun, winter also brings challenges and potential dangers for our four-legged friends. Whether it’s melting ice, parched PAWS or peeling skin, it’s important to always be aware of what winter has to offer our four-legged friends. Here are tips on how to keep your dog safe, happy and healthy throughout the winter months.

Keep Your Dog Indoors

As temperatures drop, it’s important to avoid leaving your dog outside for extended periods of time. This can be difficult for dogs that love the outdoors and are used to playing in the backyard for most of the day. In clear weather, set aside a small part of the day to walk the dog. But if you notice your dog howling, shivering, or stopping playing, it’s time to bring them back. Also, never let your dog off the leash on snow or ice, especially during a snowstorm. Dogs lose their scent in the snow and get lost easily.

Consider Clothing

While it’s easy to think that a dog’s coat keeps them warm, that’s not always the case. Of course, some hairy breeds, such as huskies and sled dogs, deal with cold weather more easily than breeds with little or no hair. For breeds such as greyhounds, miniature shorthair retrievers, Chihuahuas, and whippets, dress your puppy in a puppy jacket or sweater when you’re outdoors together. A good sweater should cover the entire belly from the neck to the base of the tail. To ensure fit, measure your dog around the neck, shoulders, and chest. Look for designs that offer comfort but are not too tight, as well as designs without irritating zippers or embellishments that could cause choking hazards.

Watch for Frostbite

Frostbite can be a serious problem for dogs exposed to cold temperatures for long periods of time. Frostbite occurs when the dog’s body gets cold and starts to draw blood from the limbs to the center of the body to keep vital organs warm. This means your dog’s ears, paws, and tail are particularly susceptible – they can become very cold without proper blood flow, which can form ice crystals on the tissue and damage it. While sled dogs and working dogs are most at risk, it is always wise to be aware of the risks.

Frostbitten skin will eventually turn black, but it’s important to look out for early warning signs such as pale or gray skin, hard, cold and waxy skin, or blisters. Massage Vaseline into your dog’s paw pads before going out to help protect against salt and chemicals. Ankle boots are more effective at covering and protecting paws when out walking.

Avoid Antifreeze

Along with the winter frost comes antifreeze. Antifreeze is a deadly poison that, unfortunately, dogs find delicious. The active ingredient is ethylene glycol, a sweet syrupy liquid with an attractive aroma and sweetness. It’s a recipe for disaster, as even small amounts of antifreeze can cause acute kidney failure in dogs. The most common hazard of antifreeze poisoning to dogs is that it drips from car radiators into puddles on the ground, so if you use antifreeze in your car, be sure to keep all dogs away from the garage or driveway and thoroughly clean up any antifreeze spills. Also, just in case, don’t let your dog near other parked cars while on a walk. Pet parents should be extra careful when using this chemical. Consider using products that contain propylene glycol instead of ethylene glycol. In addition, cold weather chemicals such as melting ice can be dangerous when ingested, so always be aware and keep chemicals out of reach of dog paws.

Find Salting Solutions

In cold weather, it’s wise to pay more attention to your puppy’s paws. Your dog’s bare pawa can get frostbite, and snow on the ground can mask dangerous objects that could harm the paws. While spreading salt on city sidewalks during the winter is indeed a convenient solution for us humans, the type of salt used to melt ice and snow and prevent refreezing is a bit harsh on our four-legged friends. These salts are usually calcium or sodium chloride, which can irritate your dog’s foot pads and is toxic if ingested. When the dogs return from outside, check their feet for cuts or bruises and wipe off frost or snow. For long-haired breeds, keep the dog’s paws by trimming excess hair between the toes. If your dog allows you, consider wearing ankle boots to protect their feet.

Pay Special Attention to Seniors

Just as people with arthritis experience more pain in cold weather, senior dogs experience more pain in winter. The drop in air pressure can cause tissue to swell, and the uncomfortable stiff effect of cold on muscles can worsen joint conditions. Winter weather can also make you and your dog more reluctant to get up and move, but it’s crucial for arthritic dogs to maintain an exercise routine throughout the year. If not used regularly, the muscles risk atrophy, which means your dog will have less strength to perform the activities needed for improvement. Consider giving your dog heat therapy at home. Heat therapy is an easy and effective way to make your dog feel happier while relieving pain associated with injury, surgery, exercise or even arthritis. The application of heat is used to reduce stiffness and muscle spasms, increase blood flow and relieve pain.