Caring For Your Dog In the Cold Weather

It’s freezing out there and we’re being warned of snow in the next few days, so it seemed timely to blog about caring for your dog in the cold weather.  Forgive me if some of them are obvious!

1. Keep them indoors!

It’s the surest way of keeping your dog warm.  Of course they need their usual exercise and time in the garden, but be aware that they can’t be left outside for as long as usual because they will get cold quite quickly just pottering around.  If they do need to be outside make sure they have shelter to retreat to, and that the outside kennel has extra warm bedding and maybe some more insulation and a place where your dog can lie away from the drafts.

2. Wash their paws after a pavement walk

If the pavements and roads where you walk have been gritted or salted at all, then your dog is likely to have picked up some of the salt/grit on their paws and this can become a serious irritant. So do make sure that after taking them out you remove any possible traces – otherwise they will probably lick it off themselves which is also potentially harmful.

3. Adjust your dog’s food if necessary

Dogs use up more calories trying to stay warm, so if they are outside a lot it is probably worth increasing their calorie intake a bit to compensate.  Of course if you and your dog spend most of the winter cuddled up in front of the fire and venture out less than usual, the opposite is true – he will need slightly less food!

4.  Get your dog a coat/jumper for the colder days

This will really help your dog stay warm over the winter months, especially when she is outside but not very active.  If your dog spends most of the walk tearing around at 100mph it may not be as necessary, but if they are more sedate, or on a lead at your slower pace, then a warm coat will be very welcome to them, especially to the short haired breeds.

If you go for a walk where they are let off the lead after a while, it is good to keep their coats on until you get to the ‘running place’ and put it back on after: this gives them a chance to warm up and cool down safely.  Also a good idea if you do an activity such as agility.

5. Make sure their bedding is suitable

If your heating goes off overnight, remember they’re not snuggled under a duvet (not all dogs anyway!) so make sure they’ve got enough bedding to snuggle up in and that their bed is away from drafts. It might even be worth throwing a blanket over their crate (if they have one) for a bit of insulation if they’re in a crafty place, and certainly a raised bed is less drafty.

6. Groom Your Dog well

Don’t get them shaved too close to the skin if you can help it, as they obviously need their coat the most in winter!  Having said that, if they do have a longer court than usual, make sure you groom regularly because matted hair  is less efficient at keeping out the snow and cold rain, and does not insulate the dog as well.  Keep the hair around paw pads well trimmed. This will help prevent ice and snow balling up between footpads.

7. Take shorter walks if it’s really cold

But having said that, if your dog is likely to bounce of the walls if not exercised enough, make sure you give him plenty of play to stimulate his brain: hunting games indoors – maybe make him search out his dinner?   I will put some mind games for dogs on the blog in the next week or so.

8. Beware of antifreeze!

It is highly toxic! Antifreeze tastes good to pets, but even a small amount can kill your dog. Though exposure to antifreeze is a risk all year, the risk is especially high during the colder months. Keep your eyes on your dog at all times – and keep antifreeze out of reach. If you suspect your dog has had ANY exposure to antifreeze, get to a vet right away.

Winter can be a great time for dogs: that first snowfall always brings a look of absolute wonder to a new puppy’s eyes (and often a lot of barking at this strange new phenomenon!)  But be aware that our dogs feel the cold too, and it’s a great excuse for a lot of cuddles in front of the fire after all that digging in the white stuff!


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