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Winter Dog Care Tips From A Waterdown, ON veterinarian

January 15, 2024

Love it or hate it, winter is officially upon us. Many dogs need a little extra TLC at this time of year. The cold weather brings its own set of challenges for our four-legged buddies, just as it does for us. Changes in the weather can be tough on our canine companions! Read on as a local Waterdown, ON veterinarian offers some tips on caring for your dog in winter.

Winter Dog Care Tip #:1: Keep Fido Hydrated

Just because it’s not scorching hot doesn’t mean your dog doesn’t need that water bowl. Snow is not a substitute for H2O. Keep that fresh water flowing!

Winter Dog Care Tip #:2: Visit Your Waterdown, ON Veterinary Hospital Regularly

No matter what time of year it is, it’s important to keep up with your pup’s veterinary care needs. Make sure your canine pal is current on his exams and wellness care! 

Winter Dog Care Tip #3:  Protect Your Dog’s Paws From Winter

Fido’s feet can really take a beating in winter. Salt, sand, ice, and chemical de-icers can all cause painful burns and abrasions. Plus, the dry winter air can also make your pet’s paw pads rough and cracked.

Use a paw balm or wax to moisturize and protect your pup’s feet. You can buy these, but you can also make them. In fact, the AKC offers a simple recipe on their site. Mix two tablespoons of olive, sunflower, or sweet almond oil with two tablespoons of coconut oil, one tablespoon of shea butter, and four teaspoons of beeswax. Melt everything together in a small pot, stirring continually. Then, just pour the mix into tubes or tins. Voila! 

Winter paw care doesn’t end there, though. use a pet-safe de-icing product. You can get these at pet stores. Many hardware stores also carry them. If your furry pal has toe fur tufts, you’ll want to trim those back. They can collect ice balls, which are very uncomfortable and can even change the angle of your pet’s toes against the ground, possibly leading to dangerous slips.

Keep in mind that city sidewalks can be coated with all sorts of harmful substances, from salt to chemical de-icers to antifreeze. 

Booties can also help, though not all dogs will go for them. Consider getting Fido some dog booties. Yeah, it might look a bit goofy, but your dog will thank you. No more icy paws, no more salty sidewalks causing irritation – just happy paws and tail wags. Just don’t force your pet to wear them if he doesn’t want to. Another option is to keep pet wipes and/or a spray bottle full of water and some rags near the door, and teach Fido that he’ll get a yummy treat for letting you wipe his paws down. You may even be able to teach your dog to wipe his feet on a mat!

Winter Dog Care Tip #4: Adjust Your Pet’s Diet As Needed

Some pooches need to eat bigger portions when it’s cold out, as they burn extra calories just staying warm. You may need to adjust Fido’s menu a bit. Some dogs will burn extra calories in the cold, just keeping warm. This isn’t an across-the-board recommendation, however. We would recommend checking with your vet if any of the following apply to your canine buddy:

  • Thin Fur
  • Senior
  • Puppy
  • Nursing mama
  • Working dog

If Fido is outside a lot, he may also need extra food. Ask your vet for more information. 

Winter Dog Care Tip #5: Don’t Leave Your Dog Out In The Cold

One trend that we are thrilled to see is a rise in laws that make it illegal to leave dogs outside in the cold. Prolonged exposure to cold temperatures can lead to hypothermia or frostbite, and can even be deadly. While specific laws may vary by region, a general rule of thumb would be that Fido should never be left outdoors in cold temperatures longer than a half hour.

Doghouses can help, as they do provide shelter. If your pet has a doghouse, it should be well-insulated, with the opening facing away from prevailing winds. However, doghouse or no doghouse, our canine pals are part of the family, and should live indoors. If you know of a dog that is outside too much in winter, contact local authorities.

Winter Dog Care Tip #6: Don’t Skip Grooming

Did you know that brushing and bathing Fido can help keep him warm? Dust, dead fur, and dander can all interfere with the insulating qualities of your dog’s fur. Therefore, keeping your pooch’s coat in good condition can help keep him comfortable. (In summer, this also helps your dog stay cool.)

Of course, doggy beauty needs vary quite a bit. Your pet’s exact grooming routine will depend on his fur type. Do some breed research, and talk to your vet or groomer.

Winter Dog Care Tip #7: Be Careful When Walking Your Dog In Winter

Sunset comes early in winter, so you may be walking your pup after dark quite a bit. You’ll want to be extra vigilant when taking Fido out at night. Stay in safe, well-lit areas, and keep walks short and sweet. You may also want to get a leash with a flashlight attached. 

It’s also important to avoid slips and falls. Wear shoes or boots with good tread. It’s also important to pay attention to the terrain. Snow can hide potential hazards, like broken glass or even holes. Last but not least, avoid taking your dog near rivers or frozen bodies of water. Ask your Waterdown, ON vet for more information.

Winter Dog Care Tip #8:  Let Fido Play Safely

Some pups love to frolic in the snow. If you have a snow dog, like a husky or a Malamute, you may have a hard time getting Fido to come in from the cold. Many of these guys love rolling and playing in the snow. 

Let your canine friend’s opinion factor in. If Fido loves the cold, let him play! Just keep a close eye on him, and don’t leave him outdoors too long. When it’s too frigid to frolic outside, bring the fun indoors. Toss a ball, play some tug-of-war, or try out those puzzle toys. Keep your dog entertained and active, even if it’s just a short burst of energy. It beats the winter blues for both of you.

Winter Dog Care Tip #9:  Keep Your Dog Warm In Winter?

Fido’s fur coat may not be enough to keep him warm. We can recommend getting your pooch a good, comfy bed. This will protect Fido from chilly floors, and also cushion his bones and joints. Orthopedic beds are great options for large dogs and seniors, because of the extra support they offer. Of course, there’s no rule that says dogs should only have one bed. If you have enough space for it, get your pup a few different ones. It’s good to have choices!

Winter Dog Care Tip # 10:  Consider Getting Your Dog A Jacket

Imagine heading out in freezing weather without a jacket. Not fun, right? Well, many dogs feel the same. If your canine companion has thin fur, get a doggy sweater or jacket to keep your pup snug during those icy walks. (Bonus: Fido will look adorable, and who doesn’t love a stylish pooch?)

Just make sure that your pet’s coat fits him well, and doesn’t restrict his vision or movement. Avoid things with small parts, such as buttons, in case your canine pal tries to eat his outfit. We’d also advise skipping things with zippers, as they could cut your pet’s fur. Do you have questions about your pet’s health or care? Contact us, your Waterdown, ON animal clinic, anytime!

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