Old Man Winter is going to deliver quite a punch this year, particularly in the nation’s Northeast, which is predicted to see above average snowfall and below average temperatures. Wherever you are around the nation, though, it’s time to prepare your canine companion for the harsh winter elements Old Man Winter will be packing.
You can take some important steps to make sure your dog is not only warm and cozy, but healthy and safe during the upcoming season. Here are some tips.
Preparing for Outside Play
In general, if it’s too cold outside for you, it’s probably too cold for your dog, so enjoy outdoor play time on days with milder temperatures and decreased wind. Additionally, if your dog is sensitive to cold, plan outdoor time for later afternoons when the sun has had ample time to warm things up. Other things to consider:
Before - Depending on your dog’s coat, size, and age they may need an extra layer of winter warmth in the form of a coat, and all dogs should have on proper booties before you head out. If you dog refuses to walk in booties, the ASPCA recommends massaging petroleum jelly into their pads to protect them.
During - There are some important considerations for your outdoor time: 1) keep time short if your dog is displaying signs of being too cold like shivering, whining or weakness, 2) watch where your dog is playing so that they are unable to get into chemicals or stray onto frozen surfaces like ponds and 3) watch for slick surfaces that cause slipping and injury, particularly to elderly pets.
After - When you get back inside, it’s important to do a good wipe down. A towel with some warm water will remove any potential toxic chemicals that they picked up while outside.
The cold, dry weather can wreak havoc on your dog’s skin. Eliminate bathing as much as possible during cold weather. Also, consider adding a skin and coat supplement to their food.
Your dog will utilize more energy in the winter months to stay warm, and sometimes that can lead to weight loss, but overfeeding can also be problematic. It’s best to discuss with your vet specifically what, if any, dietary changes should be made.
Preventing the Flu
Just as with humans, dogs can develop influenza, and proper veterinary treatment is required. The canine flu, referred to as H3N2, exhibits with similar symptoms to an upper respiratory disease with nasal discharge, congestion, malaise, lip smacking and excessive salivation.
You may think your dog is only at risk for dehydration in summer, but winter presents the same dehydration risks, so keep the water flowing. And if you’re headed outside for a long walk, take a bowl and a bottle of water.
Antifreeze that tastes like a sweet lemonade to your canine friend and rock salt are two poisons that pose life-threatening risks to your pup. If your dog displays symptoms of drunkenness or dysphoria, seek emergency medical treatment.
Special Consideration for Senior Pets
The cold weather can be even tougher on elderly pets, so you’ll want to take some precautions. According to Redfin, “Both cats and dogs have slightly higher resting body temperatures than humans, so when it is colder outside make sure they have a blanket in their bed and an area to sleep in the sunlight during the day. Also be sure to dress your dog in booties and a sweater when taking them outside to potty, because extreme changes in temperature increase risk of illness.”
Winter months can be stressful for your dog as they begin to feel cooped up, just like you. Make sure to get them outside on mild days, and consider adding some form of indoor exercise to keep them stimulated and happier during extended indoor periods. And when Old Man Winter is simply too much, enjoy some snuggle time and keep each other warm. Spring will be here before you know it.