Once the nights start drawing in and the temperature drops we must consider that it’s not only us that feel the difference, it’s our furry friends too. It is inevitable that you will not spend as much time outside as you would in the summer. However, just because we don’t want to go out so much it doesn’t mean our Dogs don’t want to too. My Hudson doesn’t care if it’s 100 degrees or minus 5 he will go out whatever the weather. As for Nelly, as soon as it gets below 20 degrees she wants to curl up and hibernate ha-ha.
So here are a few tips to bear in mind for protecting your Dog during winter.
There are two things every dog owner should be wary of come the winter. These are Frostbite and Hypothermia.
- Frostbite – Frostbite effects Dogs just as it does us humans. When the body gets cold it draws blood from the extremities, to the core of the body, to try to help it stays warm. Therefore, your Dogs ears, paws and tail can get seriously damaged when ice crystals form in the tissue. Unfortunately this is not immediately obvious. Only when they start to thaw out does it become extremely painful. Also, in serious conditions, the skin can turn black and fall off.
- Hypothermia – If your Dog spends too much time in the cold and wet he can easily develop hypothermia. This is particularly prevalent in older Dogs or Dogs that are in ill health. You will notice he starts to shiver and his ears and feet will get cold. As it gets worse you may see signs of lethargy, weakness and depression. These are all signs he needs to get back indoors in the warmth. If it gets really bad his muscles will stiffen and the heart rate will slow down. This can be life threatening so you must be able to recognise the symptoms early on.
Just because it is cold outside it does not mean you should not be taking your dog out. If you have small breeds and sort haired breeds then a coat is ideal. You must remember though that a coat will not protect your Dogs ears, paws and tail from the cold.
A great tip for winter walks is to think about the time you are going for a walk. If you can then take your Dog out later in the morning, once the temperature rises, then all the better. Try to avoid the last thing at night when the temperature has dropped. If it is sunny during the day then try to go out in the sun. Just a little bit of sun can make a massive difference to the walk. It will also give you both some well needed vitamin D.
Plan your Walks
Walking in winter can be a lot more hazardous than it is in summer. For example, if you live near a pond, river, or the sea your four legged friend may love jumping in the water. Of course, during the winter this can be extremely dangerous. The cold water can cause hypothermia and there is the danger of falling through ice.
You may need to trim his fur between his paws. This will help prevent ice balls forming which can be really painful.
Think about the footpaths. Are they icy? Have they been treated? if they are icy there will be slip hazards for both of you. Also, if it has been treated with chemicals or salt, this can get between his paws and can irritate his foot pads.
Think of where you are going. If it is dark, try to keep to lit up areas and wear bright or fluorescent clothing so that others can see you. We used to have a small light on our Nessa’s collar so if she was running in a nearby field then we could always see where she was.
Food and Health
During winter you and your Dog are likely to have a lot less exercise. Therefore, it is a good idea to cut down on BOTH of your food intakes !!! ha-ha. Water is just as important in winter as it is in summer. Ensure your furry friend gets plenty of water when exercising and keep him hydrated.
As for health wise, if your Dog is getting on a bit and is suffering from arthritis then he may feel the cold in his joints. If he starts to feel a lot of discomfort, a trip to the vet should be arranged.
A good moisturiser is useful to help prevent skin cracking on his paws, ears and tail. There are various types available. You can also get supplements you can add to his food that keeps your Dogs coat healthy in the winter.
Think about where your Dog will be sleeping at night. Try to keep his bed in a familiar area but away from any drafts and doors that keep opening and closing. Extra blankets on his bed can help, and raise it off any stone or tiled floor. You may even find that during cold spells he will be more determined to get on the sofa with you or even try to get on your bed. This is only because he wants extra warmth. (Or he is just spoilt ha-ha).
If you have an open fire in the winter this can be extremely dangerous. Make sure you have a suitable fireguard so he cannot get too close, or if the fire “spits,” he will not come to harm from rogue embers.
During winter it will be a lot easier for your Dog to get wet and filthy. They really don’t care about how they look and if they are wet and covered in mud. However, as previously mentioned, you need to look after their coat to look after their health. Make sure you bathe them and ensure they are dried thoroughly before letting them outside again. Don’t over do it with the washing and shampooing as this can also damage the fur and lead to skin conditions. Speak to a vet or professional groomer for advice on how often to bathe.
Looking after our loved ones in winter should not be a chore but should just be a change of routines. A little more thought needs to go into your daily activities, but it really should not cause any issues. As long as you stick to ensuring you are getting adequate exercise and think about your pets health then you shoud not go far wrong.
Please feel free to drop any hints or advice you want to share.
Until next time. All the best.