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How to Weather the Winter with Fido

How to Weather the Winter with Fido

The new year has gotten off to a fresh– and frigid!–start, and it’s important to make sure you and your pooch are prepared for the cold winter weather. While Fido may be accustomed to a frolic in the backyard, a stroll around the neighborhood, or a visit to the dog park year-round, there are special considerations to be made when the mercury dips below freezing, especially for puppies, senior dogs, and short-haired breeds. While the ice, snow, and cold can prove hazardous to your fur baby’s health, there’s no reason to keep him confined inside all winter–as long as he has the proper gear and a vigilant parent like you!

Health Hazards

With his chilly winds, blustery snowstorms, and blistering cold, Old Man Winter can pose some unique concerns for your dog. Despite the fact that Fido seems to don a warm winter coat all year long, dogs are still prone to conditions like frostbite and hypothermia, just as we are. Because the cold weather can be dangerous for your dog, it’s a good idea to keep him inside when temperature dip below freezing, with the exception of supervised walks and short, supervised stints in the backyard.

Even inside, your dog faces wintertime dangers. Space heaters and fireplaces can cause burns to your pup, as can heated pet mats, heating pads, heated blankets, and heat lamps.

Also, just as humans do, many dogs suffer from dry, itchy, cracked skin during the winter, as well as cracked or bleeding paw pads. One way to help ease any paw-pad discomfort Dingo might be experiencing could be using Musher’s Paw Protection, shown below.

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Other winter hazards include seasonal chemicals like de-icers that can get on your dog’s feet, legs, or belly when he walks or plays outside, so be sure to wipe or rinse your pup off when he comes back inside to avoid his potentially ingesting these dangerous toxins when he licks his fur.

Antifreeze is also poisonous to pups, a fact that is particularly dangerous since its sweet smell and taste might tempt your dog to take a lick or two. Be sure to clean up any leaks or spills immediately.

Also, keep in mind that a cold car is just as dangerous as hot car. Just as a car can rapidly heat up in the summer sun, a car can quickly become a refrigerator in the winter months. Be sure to avoid leaving your furry friend in an unattended car when the temperature dips below the freezing mark.

Lastly, ice can be as treacherous for Toby as it can be for you. Not only is a coating of ice on asphalt or concrete slippery, but attempting to cross frozen ponds, lakes, rivers, or streams can be a fatal feat. The ice can break and give way beneath your feet and your pup’s paws, so it’s best to avoid attempting to walk or play on frozen bodies of water, no matter how thick the ice seems.

sweater dogs

Prepare for Winter Emergencies

One way to keep your dog’s tail wagging all winter is to make sure he is prepared for any potential winter emergencies, such as blizzards, ice storms, of sub-zero temperatures. In extreme cases, winter weather emergencies may call for you and your pet to either evacuate or shelter in place for an extended period of time. To help prepare yourself and your pet for these types of situations, you’ll want to have the items explained below.

  • A pet emergency kit like the ones shown below often comes with portable water containers, first aid support, and other helpful materials you might need if you are forced to shelter in place or evacuate with your dog.
  • A photograph of you with your pet can help prove your pet is yours should you become separated, as well as can help identify your pet if he is lost.
  • Copies of your dog’s rabies and vaccination certificates are likely to be required by any evacuation shelter that allows pets.
  • Three days’ worth of your dog’s medication(s) should be packed and ready to go on short notice so that if you and Rufus need to leave home quickly, your dog will not go without necessary medicine until your return home.
  • Three days’ worth of water for your dog is imperative. Be sure to look up the water intake for your dog, as breed, size, weight, age, medication, and activity level can all affect how much water your dog requires per day.
  • Three days’ worth of food for your dog will be important if the two of you are forced to leave home. Even if you are fortunate enough to find a pet-friendly shelter, these shelters often do not provide pet food.

AKC Pet Safety Kit, Small, 20-Piece, Red

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GetReadyNow Pet & People Road Emergency Survival Kit | Earthquake Survival Kit for Person and Pet | Waterproof Bag With People & Pet First Aid, Light & Emergency Supplies

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Warning Signs

There are many symptoms your dog may exhibit if he is suffering from a dangerous winter-related health problem. These signs can include:

  • shivering
  • whining or crying
  • lethargy
  • anxiety
  • weakness
  • slow moving or no moving
  • looking for a place to nest or burrow.

If your dog exhibits any ocombination of these symptoms, especially for a prolonged period of time, consult your veterinarian immediately.

whippet in winter

Puppies and Senior Dogs

Puppies and old dogs alike can have a particularly difficult time in the winter, as their bodies struggle to regulate body temperature the way a healthy, adult dog’s body would. In older dogs, diabetes, kidney disease, heart disease, and hormonal imbalances can contribute to this struggle. For this reason, observing your puppy or senior dog’s behavior in the winter is imperative. If he exhibits any signs of distress like the ones mentioned above, consult your veterinarian.

Cold winter weather may aggravate arthritis in older dogs, so throughout the winter, be sure to follow the three tips below to help combat arthritis discomfort in your older dog:

  • Make sure he gets regular exercise appropriate to his fitness level and ability.
  • Provide a warm place to rest and recover after exercise or exertion.
  • Provide a joint supplement like the one shown below.

Pure Wild Alaskan Salmon Oil for Dogs & Cats – Supports Joint Function, Immune & Heart Health – Omega 3 Liquid Food Supplement for Pets – All Natural EPA + DHA Fatty Acids for Skin & Coat – 32 FL OZ

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In addition, senior dogs are more likely to slip and fall on ice due to a decline in their ability to balance, as well as potentially weaker muscles. When out for walks or in the yard, avoid icy patches.

Short-Haired Breeds

Though we think of dogs as being naturally warm due to their fur, short-haired breeds wear only a light jacket, compared to the winter coats of long-haired breeds like huskies. Many short-haired dogs may require a sweater or coat to stay warm during the winter months. The potential to get chilly is exacerbated if your dog himself–not just his coat–is short. Because a short dog is closer to the ground, he is more likely to come in contact with snow, ice, or moisture and could thus grow colder, more quickly. A sweater or coat, as well as thoroughly drying your dog off upon returning inside, can help him stay warm.

beagle in snow

Make Frigid Fun!

When the weather outside prevents you from taking advantage of the great outdoors, there are many indoor activities that can stimulate your dog. Teach him some new tricks or bake healthy, homemade dog cookies together. You can even stimulate his mind and his palate with treat puzzles like the ones shown below–just be careful not to overfeed.

Ethical Pets Spot “Seek-a-Treat Flip ‘N” Slide Treat Dispenser for Dogs

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OurPets IQ Treat Ball Interactive Food Dispensing Dog Toy

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Grooming is another fun indoor activity that can help make sure your dog’s coat properly insulates him during the colder months. It is also a great way to bond with your furry friend.

If you have a high-energy or stir-crazy pup, you might consider training him to use a canine treadmill like the ones below, for days when outdoor walks seem too treacherous.

Domestic Pet Dogpacer Mini Treadmill Interaction

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Gopet Treadwheel – Indoor / Outdoor Exercise For Large Dogs

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While lots of fun indoor winter activities exist, going outdoors is usually still an option. Even in the winter, it’s okay to take Fido for a walk. Make sure to properly outfit him and watch for signs that he may be growing too cold. If he starts limping during a walk, or stops walking altogether, check between his toes for ice or snow accumulation. If this is a frequent problem for him, you may want to clip the fur between his toes to prevent it from trapping ice and snow in his paw pads.

If you do go for walks or play outside during the winter months, do your best to do so during peak sunshine hours, such as late morning or mid-afternoon, when the day is likely to be at its warmest point.

If you allow your dog free reign of the backyard, be sure to supervise him for signs of cold weather health issues, as well as to make sure he does not escape. Shovel snow away from fences so your dog can’t use snow to climb over the fence, and keep in mind that snow covers familiar smells, so if your dog does get out, he may have a difficult time finding his way back home. Because of this, make sure your dog is properly identified using a collar and tags or a microchip.

Lastly, keep in mind that ice and snow falling off your roof can cause injury to your pet. Be sure to supervise him when he is outdoors to help prevent these safety hazards.

snowy walk

Safety First

While winter weather can indeed pose many dangers to your dog, there are lots of ways you can help keep him safe, both indoors and out, throughout the colder months. Keeping your dog warm, making sure he is visible, and providing adequate shelter are three keys to your dog’s winter well-being.

Keep Fido Warm

Two of the easiest ways to help make sure your dog stays warm enough, especially when he goes outside, are sweaters and coats like the ones shown below. Consider your dog’s natural coat when deciding if a light sweater or heavier coat would be best. You may also want to consider how difficult or easy getting your dog into or out of a specific sweater or coat may be, based on your dog’s size and flexibility, and the garment’s stretch, closures, etc. For example, a dog with arthritis may have trouble bending his legs to get into a specific sweater. A coat with buttons or a zipper, which he can step into or out of, may work better.

Chilly Dog Boyfriend Dog Sweater, Large

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Gooby Cold Weather Fleece Lined Sports Dog Vest with Reflective Lining, X-Large, Blue

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Kuoser Cozy Waterproof Windproof Reversible British style Plaid Dog Vest Winter Coat Warm Dog Apparel for Cold Weather Dog Jacket for Small Medium Large dogs with Furry Collar (XS – 3XL ),Red L

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Footwear is also critical for keeping your dog’s tail wagging all winter long. Boots help keep your dog warmer and provide better grip to help prevent him from slipping on ice. They also protect your pup’s paws from dangerous chemicals, such as deicers. Preventing these chemicals from getting on your pet’s paws ensures he will not ingest the chemicals later in the day when he licks his paws or bathes himself.

When choosing the proper winter boot for your dog, make sure they are easy-on/easy-off, especially for dogs with arthritis or other joint issues, and that you follow the sizing charts and guides provided. Keep in mind, booties are good not only for cold weather but also for hot weather, as they can protect your dog from the scalding asphalt during the warmer months.

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Whenever Clifford comes back inside from some playtime or a walk, be sure to thoroughly dry him. If he stays wet, he could become cold and be at risk for hypothermia.

Lastly, be sure your dog has access to warm bedding in a familiar, comfortable place. Beds like the ones shown below can provide a cozy place for your dog to rest, recover, and warm up.

Pet Tent – Soft Bed for Dog and Cat, Best Pet Supplies, Medium, Corduroy Beige

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Milliard Premium Comfort Plush Cat Cave and Pet Bed

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Daylight hours are shorter during the cold winter months, so it’s particularly important to make sure your dog is visible when he is out and about.

Reflective harnesses, collars, and leashes like the ones shown below can all help make sure drivers, cyclists, and others can see your dog in the dark when he is out for an early morning or evening walk. If your dog wears a sweater or coat that could cover his reflective gear, consider a coat or sweater with reflective elements, as well as a reflective leash or lighted collar tag.

Illumifun LED Dog Leash USB Rechargeable 47.2inch Nylon Webbing 3 flash Modes,Safety Reflective Dog Leash LED,Glowing Dog Leash Dark Visible (Green)

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Dog Light, Dog Collar Light, Bubba’s Leash Light – (NEW VERSION) 2 Per Pack – For Dog Walks & Backyard Monitoring. Attaches to Leash, Dog Collar, Harness. Great For Small & Large Dogs. (STEALTH BLACK)

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Noxgear LightHound – Multicolor LED Illuminated, Reflective Dog Harness (Large)

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Keeping your dog in your home is your best bet when the weather is cold. Even if your dog is an outdoor dog, when the temperature drops below freezing, it is best to bring him inside. That said, here are some tips for keeping your outdoor dog warm when the temperature is chilly, but doesn’t mandate his coming inside:

  1. Make sure the door of his doghouse faces away from prevailing winds.
  2. Make sure his door has a functional flap that closes after your dog enters or exits his house.
  3. Use a raised shelter.
  4. Provide warm bedding and change it often to ensure it stays dry.
  5. Use a heated bowl like the one shown below to prevent your dog from becoming dehydrated as a result of his water freezing.
  6. Provide a well-insulated doghouse.

K&H Pet Products Thermal-Bowl Heated Cat & Dog Bowl 96oz. Blue 25W

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