As I sit here writing, outside my window it is a blistering -7 degrees, and that’s not even including the wind chill. All across the country, cities are seeing record low temperatures and piles of snow, and this extreme winter weather can mean big trouble for your dog. Follow these 8 tips to keep your pets safe and warm this season.
- Protect Their Paws
The snow and ice can harm the pads of your dog’s paws, causing them to crack and bleed. Luckily, there are a few things you can do to protect them. Trim the hair around the pads of their paws to limit the amount of snow and ice that will cling to their fur. Wipe their paws immediately when you get home to remove the salt, which can be hazardous to your pet, or consider buying booties for them to wear outside. To moisturize and prevent cracking of the pads, use a paw wax of salve.
- Know Your Breed
Some breeds are better equipped to deal with the harsh winter weather than others. If your dog has a thick coat, they may deal better in the colder temperatures, but if your dog has thin fur or is very small, buying them a coat or sweater for outside may be the best option. It will add an extra layer of protection for their midsection. Also, avoid shaving your dog during the winter months, as they need as much warmth as they can get.
- Limit Outside Time
No matter the breed, dogs should only be outside for small periods of time during the winter months. The most sensitive parts of a dog’s body are the ears, feet, and tail. When outside for two long, these parts of the body become susceptible to frostbite. If it’s too cold for you to be outside, it’s probably too cold for your dog to be outside as well, even if they don’t act like they want to come inside.
- Prevent Dry Skin
As with humans, winter can be very damaging to a dog’s skin. Coming from the cold into the warmth can cause your pet’s skin to become itchy and discomforting. Increase the time between baths to avoid drying out their skin even more, and use coconut oil to add extra moisture. You can also use a humidifier in your home or give them supplements for their skin to make sure it stays as healthy as possible.
- Stay Hydrated
During the summer, staying hydrated seems obvious, but it’s just as important during the cold months. Make sure that you are giving your pup plenty of water, and to monitor the water if it’s outside. Sometimes ice can form in freezing temperatures, and you don’t want anything to prevent your dog from getting water.
- Keep Out of Reach of Chemicals
The winter is full of potentially dangerous substances for your dog. Antifreeze can be enticing for animals because of its colorful nature. If consumed, it can cause life-threatening illnesses for your pet, so make sure to clean up any spills that may happen and to keep it out of reach of your pet. If you need to salt your driveway or sidewalk, be sure to pick one that is dog-safe and won’t cause burns to their paws.
- Keep on the Leash
When the snow has really built up, it’s hard to tell what potential hazards could be lurking underneath. Keep your dog on a leash to prevent wandering onto thin ice or into ditches that could cause injuries. There is also a greater chance they could be hit by vehicles because of the decreased visibility and bad road conditions. Snow also makes it harder for dogs to track a scent, and they could become lost if left off-leash.
- Pay Attention to Behavior
Most importantly, you need to be alert for any potential symptoms of frostbite or hypothermia. Frostbite can be hard to tell, but if you notice grey or pale patches on your dog’s skin, particularly on the ears, tail, or legs, it’s best to seek medical attention. Hypothermia occurs when your dog gets too cold. If you see that they are shivering or acting slower or lethargic, these can be symptoms. As they grow colder, their heart rate slows, and they will seem sluggish. Again, get them inside as quickly as possible and seek medical attention.