Updated: May 15
Some perfectly loving dog owners live under the false assumption that their pets can weather the cold. Dogs are tough animals, right? They don’t really need special care during the winter. While dogs are better adapted to deal with winter conditions than, say, you are, dogs are not impervious to the dangers of the season. You must take precautions to make sure your beloved pooch stays happy and healthy. Here are some essential tips.
Invest in some booties
It may be tough to get them on and when you finally do they may look a bit silly, but protecting your dog’s feet with some booties (or doggie shoes) is vital in the winter. Not only are your dog’s paw pads sensitive to the cold, ice, and snow, but they are also sensitive to the stuff put down to deal with the ice and snow.
“City streets are coated with deicing substances, such as sodium chloride (rock salt) and calcium chloride, which make sidewalks safe for pedestrians, but can damage paw pads,” says the American Kennel Club.
Don’t give them too many baths
You may be tempted to give your dog a warm bath every other day — especially after some romps in the snow. But you should actually bathe your dog as little as possible during the winter. As the ASPCA notes, over-bathing when it’s cold removes your dog’s important body oils and can lead to dry, flaky skin. If your dog is smelly, try perfumes or deodorizing sprays. If they are too dirty to manage, make sure you use moisturizing products when you lather them up.
Invest in a good pair of clippers
If you want to cut down on the amount of debris your dog brings into the house after his or her outdoor adventures, consider investing in a good set of clippers. Not only will clippers allow you to take care of any hair-related problems you may encounter, but they will also prevent you from visiting the neighborhood groomer whenever a problem arises.
Beware of automobile dangers
Your dog is much more likely to be a victim of a car strike when the weather is bad. Your dog is also more likely to accidentally consume antifreeze in the winter. It’s sweet to them, but it’s deadly if ingested. Finally, don’t leave your dog in a cold car. The temperature inside a car can actually be colder than the outside temperature.
"If it’s too cold for you, it’s too cold for them."
Take extra special care of elderly pets
The older we get, the less resilient we become. This is true for dogs as well. You need to take extra special care to shield your older companion from the harsh cold. Both cats and dogs have higher resting body temps than humans, so they need a blanket in their bed during the colder months. It’s also wise to put your dog in a sweater when they are outside. This helps protect their core, vital organs from the cold. If your elderly pup is cold and likes to snuggle with you on the couch, a dog ramp can help them climb up to otherwise-unreachable spots. Many models are portable, and some can even be used as stairs. A great rule to follow in the winter: If it’s too cold for you, it’s too cold for them. Bottom line: Dogs are not polar bears.
Let them pack on a few extra pounds
Winter is not the time to worry about your dog’s swimsuit body. In fact, you should purposefully pack some extra weight onto your dog (if they are already at a healthy weight to begin with). This is because dogs will burn more calories staying warm in the winter than they do any other time of the year. You can simply feed your dog extra dog food, or you can try to give them some highly-caloric snacks throughout the week. The Honest Kitchen recommends a snack of molasses, flaxseed, eggs, oatmeal, and ground meat. Yum? Of course, it’s also very important to make sure your pet doesn’t become overweight.
In the end, use common sense. Stay indoors with your dog if it’s extremely cold. It’s ok to skip a walk or two if it’s sub-zero. If your dog is shivering, they are cold. Give them a blanket. If they are dry and itchy, try a humidifier or some moisturizer. Dogs aren’t that much different from humans when it comes to winter needs.
Our guest blog writer, Janice Miller, has always been an advocate for ensuring safety. It started just in the community, in a physical neighborhood, but the more she engaged herself online she has found that there is a need to ensure safety on the interweb as well.