You winterize your car. You winterize your home. But how about your dog?
Pets require different care in the colder months, especially dogs. Check this list of winter dog care tips to make sure your dog is prepared for the winter.
1. Clothe your dog for the outdoors.
Some dogs have coats that are perfectly suited for cold wind and snowy conditions, such as Huskies and Pomeranians. For less cold-hardy dog breeds, the extra insulation from dog winter clothes is recommended and sometimes absolutely necessary (think Chihuahuas).
2. Research before you buy dog winter clothes.
Dog clothes come in many different styles and materials for different functions. While some clothes are just for fashion, others provide significant winter warmth, while still others offer wind protection. Choose your dog clothes based on your dog’s coat thickness and your winter activity requirements.
3. Look for a windbreaker.
Windbreakers are not just for fall and spring. If you live in a cold, windy climate, a windproof outer shell can take the bite out of windchill and make your dog a lot more comfortable during winter walks.
4. Complete with boots.
While they may appear rough, dog footpads can be quite sensitive to winter conditions. The major culprits are salt and chemicals for melting ice. Dog boots protect dog paws from damaging outdoor elements.
5. Keep paw wax on hand.
If your dog will not wear boots, protective paw wax can help shield his paws. Paw wax or salve can also help heal dry, cracked dog paws.
6. Rinse paws after winter walks.
A thorough rinse with warm water after a walk can help wash away any salt that may have accumulated in his paws over the trip. Be sure to towel dry to prevent the foot pads from drying out.
7. Check dog paws regularly in the winter.
Overly dry and cracked foot pads are prone to infection. Moisturize dry foot pads and treat any open sores quickly. Use an antiseptic and cover the wound if necessary, rinsing clean often.
Naturpet Healing Spray for Dogs uses all natural herbs as an antiseptic.
8. Consider a skin oil supplement.
Especially in dry climates, winter can be very harsh on dog skin. Over the winter months, try giving your dog a fish or other oily skin supplement. Depending on the type, these can be ingested orally (on food as an additive or as a tablet) or applied topically (a specialty shampoo or coat conditioner).
Wholistic Pet Wild Deep Sea Salmon Oil is a perfect blend of omega 3's and 6's for a healthy skin and coat.
9. Limit winter baths.
Bathing can dry out winter skin more than usual. Reduce winter bathing using a waterless dog shampoo to freshen up between baths. Switch to a dry skin shampoo and conditioner to replace natural oils lost in bathing.
10. Remember to exercise your dog.
In the winter, dogs still require exercise. Give your dog a daily walk if the weather warrants it or get creative with play in the house. Even a good game of tug can get the heart racing and relieve boredom.
11. Stave off boredom.
With many dogs spending more time indoors, boredom can become a big problem for pets and their owners. Dogs can start acting up when they are bored, sparking tension between the best relationships. Interactive dog toys and treat balls are great for keeping dog’s attention. Rotating toys can be a good way to keep your dog interested, too.
12. Keep your dog leashed in unknown areas.
Be very wary of any frozen bodies of water when walking your dog outside. For this reason, do not let your dog off-leash in an area where they could come in contact with a lake or pond. It is impossible to tell if the water is completely frozen over or if there are any weak spots in the ice.
Another hazard to the unknowing pet owner is anti-freeze. Anti-freeze is poison to pets. Keep your dog away from any unknown substances outside.
13. Shelter your dog appropriately.
If your dog will be outside for extended periods of time, get him a well-insulated dog house that can provide a dry place to lay with protection from the wind. Consider a safety-approved heated pet bed or pad to keep him warm, but never leave your dog alone with a space heater. It is a serious fire hazard!
14. Trade in the choke chain.
Choke chains can be hazardous in the winter months, when temperatures drop. Chains move less easily in the cold, and the risk of strangulation for an unattended outdoor dog increases exponentially.
15. Keep your dog visible.
Since the winter months mean less daylight, chances are you may be walking your dog in the dark more often. Use a reflective leash, collar, or jacket on your dog to keep him visible to unsuspecting vehicles.
16. Check in on your dog regularly.
For any dog that is outdoors, make sure you check in on him often. Pay close attention for signs of discomfort and distress. Dogs can freeze to death in cold weather and bad conditions.
17. Invest in a heated dog bowl.
If your dog will be spending any amount of time alone outside in the winter, strongly consider a heated dog bowl. Standard bowls can freeze over quickly, leaving your pet without easily accessible water. Even so, check often to make sure your heated bowl is operating soundly.
18. Adjust your dog's food portions.
Many dogs decrease activity during the winter months. You may need to decrease food intake (including treats) so that your dog does not gain excess weight. However, if your dog is outside a lot more during the winter, especially hiking or working, they may require extra calories.
A simple approximation of weight in dogs is a rib test. You should be able to feel your dog’s ribs easily through his coat. If they are clearly visible and your dog is gaunt, he may be losing too much weight. If your dog’s ribs are hard to feel beneath his skin and he appears round in the belly, he may be overweight. Ask about your dog’s weight at his regular veterinary check-up.