When your dog loves snowball fights and getting cozy on the couch, winter can be the best time of year. The crisp air and potential for snow days are worth looking forward to, but not every dog is in love with winter. Between the snow, ice, and wind, the cold isn’t always your dog’s favorite season. Regardless of your pup’s personal preference, winter causes concerns for pet parents. Keeping your dogs safe during cold weather should be a priority. These winter care tips will help your furry family have a fun and worry-free winter.
- That Fur Coat Isn’t as Warm as You Think
Certain dog breeds are built for the cold, and their thick, long fur is perfect for spending time in the snow. Huskies, Bernese Mountain Dogs, Akitas, Newfoundland Dogs, and several other hardy dog breeds are bred specifically for colder climates. These dogs typically don’t need extra help staying warm, but a fur coat doesn’t assure a warm pup.
Dogs with short, thin fur can’t stand cold weather. They’re at risk of developing hypothermia and frostbite when winter weather hits. If your short-haired dog enjoys playing in the snow or you go on long walks in cold weather, invest in a dog coat or sweater like this one from Naked Dog Bistro. No matter what kind of dog you have, never let them outside in the cold for too long.
- Combat Dry, Itchy Skin
Winter weather is notorious for causing dry, itchy skin. You can’t slather moisturizer on your dog as you do for yourself, but there are other ways to keep your pet’s skin healthy in winter. Adding supplements to her food including omega fatty acids will keep both her skin and her fur in the best shape.
Coconut oil is another easy ingredient you can add to your dog’s dinner bowl to promote healthy skin. If your dog is especially itchy and uncomfortable when the temperature drops, try investing in a humidifier. This tip doesn’t only apply to winter care; dogs can get dry skin no matter the temperature.
- Adjust Diet Accordingly
How many calories your dog eats a day should always be balanced with how active she is. She’ll naturally burn more calories in the winter as her body works to keep her warm, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you should start feeding her more.
If your pup refuses to go outside when it’s cold and snowy, she’s likely getting a lot less exercise than she does when the weather is warm. Her inactivity means she should be fed fewer calories to avoid overfeeding and obesity. At the same time, a dog that loves to play in the snow and prefers to spend time outside tackling snowmen and chasing snowballs will need more calories than usual to fuel all that extra activity. Talk to your vet before making dietary changes.
- Protect Those Paws
With those thick, leathery paw pads, it’s easy to think your dog’s feet can handle anything. Snow, ice, and road salt, however, can seriously harm your pup’s paws. It’s important to pay attention to the bottoms of your dog’s feet to prevent cracks and cuts. Trim the hair between her toes and paw pads to stop snow and ice from balling up and causing irritation. You should also wipe off your dog’s paws to remove ice and salt. (This will also help save your hardwood floors!)
Consider buying dog booties if your pup has sensitive paws or spends long hours outside. Lastly, your doggy winter care kit isn’t complete without Organic Paw Wax from Naked Dog Bistro to soothe those dry or cracked paw pads.
- Prioritize Grooming
When you let your dog inside after a fun romp through the snow, check out her legs and belly. If she has long fur, she probably has little balls of ice and snow hanging from her fur. Those clumps will melt fast, but they also create tangles that can lead to matting. Your dog needs her long fur to keep her warm, and giving her a major haircut isn’t the answer. Instead, find a good brush and commit to daily grooming sessions. You want to get those tangles out soon before they create painful mats that need to be cut off.
You can brush every day, but hold back on the baths. Bathing a dog too often will strip their skin of essential oils and make dry skin even more uncomfortable. It’s okay to go a little longer than usual between winter bath times and remember to use a gentle shampoo.
- Beware of Antifreeze
Antifreeze is important for automotive winter care, but it’s extremely dangerous for pets. It’s deceivingly sweet-tasting, and pets (and children too!) have been known to take a lick and keep on licking. Even a small amount can be deadly when ingested. Symptoms of antifreeze poisoning include excessive drooling, vomiting, seizures, and a drunken appearance.
Keep your pup out of the garage and make sure your antifreeze is in a safe spot. You also need to watch closely when walking your dog near streets, driveways, and parking lots. Cars leak antifreeze all the time and leave small puddles that are extremely dangerous. Antifreeze is most often bright green, but it also comes in different colors. Be wary of any strange substance found on the ground in winter.
- Watch Out for Buried Hazards
That soft blanket of snow is beautiful, and your dog can’t wait to mark it up with her many pawprints. But beneath that winter wonderland, there are hidden hazards to be aware of. Deep snow can cover up things that can cause your dog harm. Frozen water, kids’ play equipment, outdoor tools—there could be any number of things buried by the snow.
If you’re in your own yard, you should have a general idea of what you forgot to put away before the snow started falling. But when you take your pup to unfamiliar places, learn about the area before you let your dog loose. You need to know if there’s a frozen lake or anything else you can’t see beneath the fresh snow.
- Give Her a Cozy Place to Sleep
If your dog doesn’t already have a comfy place to sleep, now’s the time to make that change. Sleeping on the cold, hard floor is damaging to joints, and it also causes stiffness and general muscle aches. Your pup deserves the best, and she needs a supportive bed, soft blankets, and a warm place to sleep.
For homes with tile flooring, winter care should include buying a raised dog bed and piling it with your pup’s favorite blankets. Place it in a heated area away from cold drafts. Remember dogs should never be forced to sleep outside in the winter. If it’s too cold for you, it’s too cold for your dog.
- Block Off Heat Sources
Nothing sounds cozier than curling up in front of the fireplace on a cold winter’s night, but heat sources often create risks for pets. Dogs love getting close to heaters and fireplaces to stay warm, and sometimes they get too close. Burns are a common veterinary emergency in the winter. Desperate for warmth, your dog might enthusiastically run up to your heater only to jump back in pain.
It’s your responsibility to block off these dangerous heat sources for your pet’s safety. Use fireplace screens to keep her from getting too close to flames, and make it part of your winter care routine to devise a way to separate pets from space heaters and wood stoves.
- Update Your Winter Storm Emergency Kit
When the winter wind howls and the snow keeps falling, there’s a risk of losing electricity and being snowed in. You should have an emergency kit for your family, and make sure to include items for the dog.
You’ll need extra blankets to keep your pup warm and at least a two-week supply of food and water. You should also make sure you have other doggie essentials like the leash, harness, booties, and medications. Don’t let your supply of dog food run low when winter weather threatens your ability to get to the store to buy more.
No matter what the weather channel forecasts for your area, now’s the time to get prepared. These winter care tips will help you and your furry family have a safe and enjoyable winter. Whether you spend the season cuddled on the couch or outside enjoying the snow, now’s the time to prepare. Stay warm, and watch out for that yellow snow!