Cuddles with your furry friend are extra welcome on cold days, but the winter months also carry some unique challenges for dog health and safety. So, with the coldest weather ahead of us, we’ve put together a few tips on winter care to help you keep your dog safe and healthy this winter.
Winter Care for Dogs: Top 5 Tips for Dog Health
Cold Weather Tip #1: Limit exposure
When temperatures drop, so too must the duration of outdoor adventures. If you’re used to long walks and bouts of play outside, keep an eye on the temperature and pay close attention to your dog’s comfort level. Dogs and cold weather shouldn’t mix for too long—hypothermia and frostbite become real dangers as the temperatures dip below freezing.
If you’re still walking your usual route but your doggo seems to lose some of her familiar energy by the end, you might want to map out a shorter jaunt for the colder months. You may be bundled up in cold weather gear, but your pupper is working with a considerably more limited wardrobe—and burning additional calories just keeping warm. This tip is essential for dog health and safety.
Cold Weather Tip #2: Bundle up
Speaking of coats, your dog might need some extra insulation during cold weather. Dogs that are on the smaller side have less body mass and therefore don’t generate as much heat. Dogs with short coats—or no coat, like a Chinese Crested or Peruvian Inca Orchid—definitely require additional insulation in winter weather.
If your pup could use an extra layer, find a warm dog coat that fits well. Consider getting at least two—that way, you’ll always have a dry one on hand. A damp or wet coat is counter-productive since it can exponentially increase the risk of hypothermia.
Cold Weather Tip #3: Protect those paws
Cold surfaces, ice, and snow can be rough on your pup’s feet. The addition of salt on roads and sidewalks can be especially irritating, and even dangerous, to sensitive paws. Toy breeds like Yorkshire Terriers and Miniature Pinschers tend to be especially susceptible to extreme cold. If your regular walk and play areas get salted in the winter, consider protecting your dog’s paws with some winter booties or paw balm.
Once you’re back home, towel your pup’s paws or rinse them in warm water, making sure to get any snow, ice or salt between the toes. For longer haired or lower-to-the-ground pups, be sure to cleanse any salt from their bellies, tails, and ears, too.
Cold Weather Tip #4: Stave off kennel cough
Just like human flu season, kennel cough is most prevalent in the colder months. Officially called canine infectious tracheobronchitis, kennel cough is highly contagious and is commonly spread in places like kennels, dog parks and doggy daycare where there are a lot of dogs coming and going.
Arming your pup with the bordetella vaccination is a good preventative measure and is sometimes required at boarding facilities. However, even vaccinated pups aren’t 100 percent immune. The most prevalent symptom is a honk-like cough. Your dog might also exhibit a runny nose, fatigue, or a low-grade fever. If you’re worried your pup might have picked up kennel cough, contact your vet who can treat it with antibiotics.
Cold Weather Tip #5: Know your dog’s history
Breeds like Samoyeds, St. Bernards, and Alaskan Malamutes are winter weather pros with cold-resistant, double-layered coats. Greyhounds, Whippets, and Chihuahuas, on the other hand, are examples of breeds who require extra care in cold climates.
Knowing your dog’s background and the climates in which its ancestors acclimated can help you be more informed when it comes to your dog’s preparedness for colder weather.
Testing your dog’s DNA can provide insight into your dog’s background with a full breed breakdown. It will also test for over 160 diseases and a number of traits. Grab your DNA kit today—and stay warm out there!