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Our Best Tips For Winter Dog Care

January 15, 2024

Winter is definitely upon us. The cold weather brings its own set of challenges for our four-legged buddies. However, with a few straightforward tips, you can make sure your dog stays warm and happy. Let’s dive in!  Here are some tips from a local Lake Echo, NS veterinary clinic on how to take care of your dog during the winter.

Play With Your Dog Indoors

When it’s too frigid to frolic outside, bring the fun indoors. Toss a ball, play some tug-of-war, or try out those puzzle toys. Keep your dog entertained and active, even if it’s just a short burst of energy. That beats the winter blues for both of you!

Be Safe Walking Your Dog In Winter

During the winter, it gets dark early, so it’s likely you’ll walk your pup after dark quite often. Stay in safe, well-lit areas when you take Fido out at night. You might want to invest in a flashlight leash as well. Wear shoes with good tread, and pay attention to the terrain. Snow can hide dangers, like broken glass or even holes. Do not go near frozen bodies of water. For more information, consult your veterinarian.

Adjust Your Dog’s Diet For Winter

You may need to adjust your pup’s portion sizes in winter. In the cold months, some dogs will burn more calories just to stay warm. 

Consult your vet if any of the following apply to your dog:

  • Thin Fur
  • Senior
  • Puppy
  • Nursing mama
  • Working dog

Fido will also need extra food if he spends a lot of time outside. Senior dogs and pets with mobility issues may also benefit from certain supplements, like fish oil. 

Keep Your Dog Hydrated In Winter

Just because it’s cold doesn’t mean your dog isn’t thirsty. Make sure your furry friend always has access to fresh water – and no, eating snow doesn’t count. Snow is fun for digging, but is not for drinking.  

Groom Your Dog Regularly

Dust, dead fur, and dander can all interfere with the insulating qualities of your pet’s fur. Brush your dog’s coat regularly. (Remember to offer a treat after, so your pooch thinks he’s getting a winter spa day.) Baths are important, too. Of course, walking a wet dog in cold weather is not a good idea! You can blow dry your pet at home, if he doesn’t mind it. Or, consider taking Fido to a groomer. Hold off on the haircuts, though; that fur is insulation against the cold. 

Doggy beauty needs vary quite a bit. Do some breed research, and ask your vet or groomer for specific advice.

When Is It Too Cold For A Dog To Be Outside?

We are beyond thrilled to see a rise in laws that make it illegal to leave dogs outside in the cold. While specifics may vary by region, a general rule of thumb would be that Fido should never be left outdoors longer than a half hour in cold temperatures.

What If My Dog Likes Snow?

Dogs are just as divided on the subject of snow as people are. Some absolutely hate the cold. Others love it. Actually, snow dogs, such as huskies or Malamutes, may be hard to get inside. These guys absolutely love to roll in the snow and play!

Take your pup’s opinion into consideration. If he loves the cold, let him play! Just watch him closely and don’t leave him outside for too long.

Keep Your Dog Warm And Cozy

Fido may have a fur coat, but that isn’t enough to keep him warm. Of course, some dogs need more assistance here than others.

In general, we recommend getting Fido a comfortable bed. This will keep him insulated from the cold floors, and also cushion his bones and joints. An orthopedic bed is a great choice, as it offers extra support. This is particularly important for large dogs and seniors. Thermal beds and self-heating beds are also good bets for chilly dogs. A heating pad is another option. But, as with any heating appliance, you’ll need to take precautions to prevent fires.

There’s no rule that says Fido should only have one bed. If you have enough space, get him a few different ones. Choices are always good!

Put A Jacket On Fido If He’s Cold

Some dogs are built for winter. Others … not so much. If your pooch has thin fur, grab a doggy sweater or jacket for him. You don’t need anything runway-worthy, just something to keep your four-legged pal warm on those frosty walks. Make sure it doesn’t hinder your dog’s sight or mobility, and steer clear of items with small pieces like buttons that may tempt them to nibble on their attire. Zippers are also not recommended, as they may snag Fido’s fur.

Pay Extra Attention To Your Dog’s Paws

Fido’s furry feet will also need extra attention. The dry winter air can also make your pet’s paw pads rough and cracked. Plus, salt, sand, ice, and chemical de-icers cause painful burns and abrasions.

Here are a few tips:

  • Moisturize and shield your furry friend’s paws with a balm or wax. You’ll find plenty of options in stores. These can also be created at home. There’s a straightforward recipe offered on the AKC website. Their version calls for combining two tablespoons of olive, sunflower, or sweet almond oil with two tablespoons of coconut oil, one tablespoon of shea butter, and four teaspoons of beeswax. Heat everything together in a small pot while stirring continuously. Then, once it’s melted, pour the mixture into tubes or tins for storage. For storage, you can use clean metal candy tins, or order new tins or tubes. 
  • Toe fur tufts should be trimmed, as they can collect ice balls. They are very uncomfortable for Fido and can also cause slips and strains, since they may change the angle of Fido’s toes against the ground. Additionally, they can interfere with traction.
  • We highly recommend regularly cleaning your pet’s feet, especially if you frequently walk them in a city. Urban sidewalks can be covered in various harmful substances like salt, de-icers, and gasoline. Keep some pet wipes or a spray bottle of water and rags near your door. Also, consider training your dog to allow you to wipe their paws by rewarding them with treats. With some practice, Fido may even learn to wipe their own feet on a mat! 
  • Use a pet-safe de-icing product. You can get these at pet stores and many hardware stores.
  • Keep your four-legged pal’s claws trimmed: long nails can make it harder for dogs to get traction on slippery ice.
  • Dog booties can be helpful, but not all dogs will wear them. Don’t force your pet to wear them, unless it’s medically necessary for some reason.

And there you have it – winter dog care without the fluff. Keep it simple, keep it cozy, and keep those tails wagging through the chilly season. Your pup will love you for it!

Do you have questions about your canine companion’s health or care needs? Please contact us, your Lake Echo, NS animal clinic, if you have questions about your pet’s health or care. We are here to help!