Winter weather came rather quickly this year, especially in some parts of the country. Temperatures plummeted into the 30s (degrees Fahrenheit) in the South. Snow has already covered parts of the Midwest. I pulled out my dog’s sweatshirts and winter coats from their storage box as I donned my own scarf, hat and coat. Yep, my pups wear coats — they’re senior dogs with very short coats — meeting two of the criteria for doggie coat wearers. You might be surprised at some of the changes you need to make in dog care as weather gets colder. That’s why we’ve put together these quick 8 tips to keep your dog safe and chill during this winter season.
Don’t leave your dog outside alone especially when it drops below 32 degrees Fahrenheit, because the temperature is too cold for dogs. Sure, your dog has fur, but that doesn’t mean he can’t get dog frostbite (in the paws, ear or tails) or dog hypothermia — and the dog is more in danger of it being too cold for dogs if he’s very young, very old, has a medical issue or has a thin coat. Exceptions are some dog breeds like the Alaskan Malamute that are made for cold weather, although they can still get it if exposed to the cold for too long. In fact, in some areas of the country it is now illegal to keep your dog outside for long amounts of time in extreme temperatures, whether hot or cold.
And, never chain your dog outside. Chaining your dog outside contributes to a whole lot of health and behavioral issues. For information on why chaining your dog outside is harmful or help on how to get a dog you know unchained, check out Unchain Your Dog.
Yes, there are dog coats and dog winter clothing for dogs, and some dogs should wear them! No, not all dogs need dog coats, but puppies, seniors or dogs with health issues should definitely have a dog coat or other winter clothes for dogs. Both of my thin-coated mixed breed dogs appreciate a dog coat, especially when it hits the 30s. Dogs breeds with thin fur coats or fur that is kept shorn could use a dog coat; examples are the Chihuahua, Whippet, Greyhound, Italian Greyhound, Miniature Pinscher, Boxer, Doberman Pinscher and Weimaraner. Dogs breeds like Dachshunds and Pembroke Welsh Corgis are so low to the ground that their bellies touch the snow and ice, so belly-protecting dog coats help them.
You may have to trim your dog’s nails more often during cold-weather months. “Since dogs spend more time indoors, their paws encounter less friction and their nails get longer,” says Andis Educator and world-class groomer Kendra Otto. “Overgrown nails can contribute to major health issues like sore feet, legs and hips –– and overall discomfort.
Keep ice and snow from being embedded in the paws. Kendra says you can take preventive measures by trimming the hair between your pup’s paws. “Follow the natural bone structure of the foot,” says Kendra. “For clipping paws, I like to use a trimmer that is smaller in diameter, like the Andis EasyClip Mini Clipper/Trimmer. It’s compact and perfect for light-duty clipping around the paws.”
There are many dog paw-protection products that can help protect your dog’s paws during winter: dog snow boots, dog paw wax and dog-safe ice-melt products like Natural Alternative’s Ice Met. There are several companies that make great dog winter boots, protecting the paws from ice, snow and the salt put on roads and streets to melt the ice. Paw waxes also are good for dog paw protection, as they form a barrier between your dog’s paws and snow and ice, plus soothe irritated, cracked pads on the paws. Dog safe ice-melting products are better than rock salt, which can irritate or burn your dog’s paws and can cause serious health issues if ingested.
Yes, it’s cold outside and your dog can’t run out into the yard to shake, shake, shake out the water from his bath. Just spend spend a little more time drying your dog with the towel or hair dryer, or, better yet, take him to a professional groomer.
“A common cool-weather misconception is that dogs don’t need grooming, but as groomers — we know that’s a myth,” says Kendra. “Winter’s stinginess with sunshine stimulates hair growth, making a canine’s coat thicker. She says it’s OK to keep a dog’s coat a bit longer than usual, because it will add protection, but pet parents should keep their dogs on a regular grooming rotation, as it decreases the chances of their doggie needing a shave down. Kendra likes to send pet parents home with Andis’ Soft-Tooth Slicker Brush. “It simultaneously removes undercoat to prevent matting and stimulates hair growth for healthier hair,” she says.
Yes, fleas and ticks can survive through the winter so keep up the winter flea and tick protection for your dog. Ticks and fleas like to hunker down to keep warm, and they could hunker down on your dog, carpet, under your home, in the shed or on outside dog beds. So, keep vigilant with your dog’s flea and tick medications and cleaning even though its colder outside. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), some ticks like the Blacklegged Tick search for a host any time winter temperatures are above freezing.
Avoid frozen bodies of water and leash your dog around frozen bodies of water. For non-moving water like ponds and lakes, ice must build up to at least 4 inches and be clear (not cloudy, dark or light covered) to be safe to walk on. When it’s a moving body of water, like a river or stream, do not walk on it, as just a small crack can break it. Hypothermia happens just seconds after you’ve fallen in, and there have been plenty of incidences where humans have died trying to rescue their dogs that have fallen in. Keeping your dog on a leash, particularly around frozen bodies of water, can keep you and your dog safe.
Protect your dog from winter-time poisons. As we mentioned earlier, rock salts can cause irritation or burning of dog’s paws, and if your dog licks too much from his paws it can cause vomiting, diarrhea and a host of other nasty issues, not to mention burning his tongue and gastrointestinal tract on the way down. Antifreeze is well-known for being toxic to dogs, because of the ingredient ethylene glycol. It can cause vomiting, loss of appetite and even seizures. And what about the popular holiday plant — poinsettia? Although poinsettias are not as toxic as once thought, they still cause vomiting and irritation to the mouth and stomach. For more poisons, check the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control site.
And last but not least, keep your dog moving during the winter. According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, in 2018 an estimated 56% of dogs in the United States were overweight or obese. The APOP recommends that dogs need at least 30-minutes of physical activity a day with suggested activities being walking, swimming, playing chase, ball retrieving and using remote controlled toys. Unfortunately, during the winter, we pet owners tend to get out with our dogs less due to the cold. If you can’t get outside, play with your dog inside to keep him moving so he doesn’t gain weight over the winter. Obesity affects your dog’s life span and quality of life.
So yes, maybe there are some dangers for your dogs with winter, but manage or navigate them with these tips. There are many fun things to do too, especially for those dogs who were made for winter like the Siberian Husky, Saint Bernard and Chesapeake Bay Retriever. So … let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.