Contributed by freelance writer and volunteer dog walker Lucy Wyndham
When we truly love our dogs, no outing or leisure pursuit is quite the same without their company. We do our best to take them everywhere, ensuring they wear their doggy seat belts in the car, have enough water and food to last them throughout the day, and sliding our soft-sided crate beneath our picnic chair so that our dog can rest between moments of activity and play. In the winter, however, we need to take special care to guard against health threats such as frostbite, injured paws and falls. Follow these tips to ensure your four-pawed friend is cosy throughout the coldest season of the year.
If the weather falls below 45°F, the cold can start feeling uncomfortable for your dog. At temperatures of below 32°F, be extra vigilant of older dogs, pups and those with short, thin coats. Below 20°F, try to keep dogs inside, taking them for only short walks or to do their necessities - this is the temperature at which they could develop serious problems like hypothermia (when their body becomes cold and the blood rushes away from their extremities to their core) or frostbite. Paws do have a high fat content and natural protection, but many domestic dogs are simply not able to withstand icy conditions.
Provide Cozy Bedding
Invest in lovely, soft bedding for your dog, made with natural materials if possible. Raised beds will keep your dog far above cold tile or marble floors. If your dog is addicted to the soft crate, no problem; just make sure the bedding you place inside is thick enough and use a heat pad or heated doggie bed for extra warmth.
Walking Your Dog in Snow
Good times to take your dog walking in the snow include midday and the early afternoon, when the sun’s rays bathe your dog in natural Vitamin D. When playing fetch, do not use sticks, which can cause choking; stick to dedicated toys that cannot become lodged in your dog’s throat. If snow is thick, keep a short lead; you don’t want your dog falling into a hidden crevice or pit, caused by snow piling high. Protect their paws with boots to avoid snowballs and ice getting in between their toes and causing damage.
Trim the hair around the paws and keep nails short to avoid snow build-up. Apply wax-based paw treatments such as Mushers Secret, which create a barrier between paws and snow. To keep their skin in tip-top condition, add a little coconut or fish oil to their food or apply topically if you see any cracked skin in areas like the ears or elbows. For older dogs, consider a joint supplement to keep joints in tip-top condition. If you have taken the car to a special place for your walk, never leave your dog in the car; it is unsafe even if you leave the car running, as it could lead to carbon monoxide poisoning.
Beware of Toxins
Antifreeze is a big temptation for dogs because of its sweet taste. Keep your dog away from the driveway and garage.
There is no reason why your dog can’t enjoy a happy, safe winter, if you take just a few steps to make them as comfortable as possible. Go for walks when the temperature is optimal, keep your dog’s paws in top shape, provide soft, thick bedding and avoid exposing them to toxins and other safety risks.