Winter is here. Our foggy breaths say so. Our 10 layers of clothing say so. The thermometer says so. We know how to stay warm and comfy. How can we make Fido warm and comfy, too?
Fido, It’s Cold Outside
Despite their thick coat, the seasonal drop in temperatures, especially when it’s extreme, can pose serious health risks to our beloved dogs. And acclimation doesn’t happen overnight. Our furry buddies need to be able to acclimate over time. Here are some tips to keep our pooches safe and warm during the winter months.
It’s important to take our pup to the vet for a wellness checkup, and it’s best if we can time this to happen before the winter season starts. This is especially true if he’s a senior dog, has a health condition that can be aggravated by cold temperatures, or both. Our dog’s vet can also advise us about our pet’s cold tolerance, based on his overall health, age, weight, activity/energy levels, breed, coat condition, and fat stores. They’ll let us understand the ways we can determine our pet’s temperature limits, meaning, how long we can safely walk Fido outside without creating distress on his paws and joints. Plus, our vet can tell us what the signs of cold-related distress we need to watch out for, and winter hazards to avoid.
When we do take Fido for a walk outside, we just need to remember to keep his paws protected, for those of us who live in snowy or icy areas. We can do this a few ways. For some, dog booties are best because they’ll protect the entire paw from the elements. Just make sure these boots are properly fitted because even though our pups don’t get blisters like humans do when we have poor-fitting shoes, they do get raw spots and can end up with unnecessarily sore paws. For those who don’t need booties, we can protect our pup’s paws with just a couple of quick tips. Clipping the hair between Fido’s toes as part of our winter grooming routine will help minimize the accumulation of snow and ice that can rub paws raw. We can also add a little olive oil or pet-safe lotion that won’t freeze so that their paws are protected from the harmful effects of ice and icy build-up.
If it’s too cold for us to go outside, then it’s probably too cold for our pooch, too. Even if we have a Siberian Husky, an Alaskan Malamute, or a Caucasian Shepherd - colder-climate breeds - limiting outdoor time is still be the safest option if the weather is inhospitably cold. For breeds that are not built for the great outdoors, such as smaller breeds and short-haired breeds, we may want to choose some stylishly warm indoor clothing. Floors, where our dogs spend the majority of their time, are colder than just a couple feet above the floor where our core feels a warmer temperature. A little sweater that will be cozy, not itchy, and won’t hold the water when it gets damp, is perfect for Fido. We might also need to make some changes to their sleeping areas. A pet bed by the window or door may not be the best winter location. And they should have thick, dry bedding. If possible, we should provide them with more than one sleeping arrangement option, as they can best decide where they’d be most comfortable.
First things first, get that quick vet check-up to better understand what our pup can withstand, and what we may need to keep an eye on to ensure their health and safety. While walking, we should avoid any frozen body of water because we can’t be sure if the ice will hold our combined or individual weights. We may not be able to prevent Fido from stepping on or brushing against toxic chemicals, such as antifreeze and deicers, so it’s necessary that we thoroughly wipe or wash our dog’s paws, legs, and belly as soon as we get back home to prevent poisoning and toxicity. And let’s not forget to dry them, and change their cold, damp winter-wear.
For outdoor dogs in the winter months, their shelter has to be warm and sturdy enough to withstand strong winds, with thick and dry bedding and flooring that’s off the ground to minimize heat loss. The walls need to protect them from drafts and high winds. The door should face away from the direction of the winds. There are dog doors that can be added to dog shelters so they can enter a space that is protected from biting cold air, even when there are no winds. Last item - all dogs need access to water. For those living in an outdoor environment, their area needs to be warm enough to give them access to unfrozen water at all times.
If Fido is anxious, whining, shivering, or in distress, then it’s time to bring him home. He needs to be warmed up right away and given a comforting hug. If there is any possibility of hypothermia, we should have him checked by his vet asap.
Preparation is Key
We should always be prepared for severe winter weather when the possibility of being cut-off from basic utilities and emergency services are high. And we should make an emergency/disaster kit for our pooch, which should include supplies that can last for at least five days.
Keeping Fido Safe and Warm in Winter
For many, the best part of winter is staying indoors, dressed in warm clothes, relaxing on the couch or in bed, and enjoying a mug of hot cocoa. For our pups, the winter weather can create a bit of cabin fever, but And we should make winter weather a pleasant experience for our dogs, as well.
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