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Winter Dog Care Tips

Winter Dog Care Tips

The winter months can be harsh on our canine companions. As veterinary students and future veterinarians, it's important we educate ourselves and pet owners on proper winter care for dogs. From keeping them warm and safe outdoors to maintaining their health indoors, dogs require some specialized attention when the temperatures drop.

Keeping Dogs Warm and Dry Outdoors

When taking dogs outside during winter, it's crucial we take measures to keep them warm and dry. Exposure to the elements can quickly lead to hypothermia or frostbite.

Bundle Up with Cold Weather Gear

A dog sweater or coat provides vital insulation when temperatures dip below freezing. Particularly small breeds with thin coats benefit from the extra layer. Ensure the garment covers the torso from neck to tail and velcros or zips securely. Water-resistant materials help keep skin dry.

Consider also:

·         Dog boots to protect paws from ice melt chemicals, salt, and footpad burns from snow and ice. Measure and size them correctly.

·         A hat or hood to reduce heat loss from the head and ears. Ensure excellent visibility.

·         Pet-safe antifreeze washes help prevent the buildup of snowballs between paw pads. Apply before outdoor play sessions.

Limit Outdoor Time

Dogs lose body heat faster in cold climates. Shorten outdoor walks and potty breaks to 10 minutes for vulnerable breeds. Athletic breeds can stay out longer when appropriately bundled. Young puppies should relieve themselves and return inside immediately. Pay attention for signs of a dog being too cold like shivering and lifted paws.

⛄️ Remember, if it's too cold for you in light dress, it's too cold for your short-haired dog!

Create a Warm Place to Relieve Themselves

Responsible pet parents should set up a dog-friendly spot for indoor dogs to potty outdoors. Consider these tips:

·         Clear an area of snow near the door to reveal grass, woodchips, or dirt.

·         Place a plastic tarp or large doormat down first before synthetic grass pads. This insulates paws from the frozen ground.

·         Temporary enclosure tents retain heat. Secure firmly in windy conditions.

·         Train dogs to use the designated potty spot consistently. Reward with treats.

Having a warm, dry area prevents holding in waste and urinary tract infections. It also keeps dogs from pottying on undesirable spots indoors!

Outdoor Safety Precautions

Don't forget to safeguard doggie family members from seasonal hazards and illnesses while playing in the snow and ice.

Prevent Poisonings

️ Dogs may nibble toxic ice melts from their paws or fur during clean up. Opt for pet-safe products or thoroughly wipe paws after each trip outside.

⛸️ The chemicals in popular ice and snow traction aids, as well as antifreeze, pose poisoning dangers. Store securely after use. Clean spills promptly.

Make sure cold weather gear stays free of any loose decorations or strings which curious dogs may swallow and choke on.

Avoid Frostbite and Hypothermia

Even well-insulated extremities remain at risk when outdoors for long periods. Frostbitten skin appears pale, hard and cold. Hypothermic dogs shiver, whine and become lethargic.

🐶 Bring any suspect dogs inside immediately, wrap in towels and gradually warm with blankets. Avoid active heating like hot packs or sudden immersion in hot water as these can burn cold skin. Contact the vet promptly as tissue damage can develop internally. Prevention is key!

Prevent Ice Balls in Fur

Long haired dogs tend to develop chunks of snow and ice between their paw pads and fur. These ice balls cause significant discomfort, even pain in some cases. Carefully cut out any hardened packed snow rather than pulling. Using pet-friendly deicers helps diminish build up when brushing after playtime.

🐶 Pay special attention to feathering fur on ears, bellies, tails and between toes for hidden ice chunks. Left untreated at home, frostbite may develop.

Don't Overwork Exercise

Frigid temperatures make strenuous exercise dangerous for even athletic dogs. Heavy panting and lung exertion brings icy air into lungs that can trigger life-threatening pneumonias.

Avoid marathon running sessions. Instead, engage in shorter, intermittent play by throwing safe toys for retrieval. Pay close attention to signs of fatigue or labored breathing during and after the activity.

By adjusting the duration, pace and monitoring your dog closely, everyone stays safer when playing in winter weather.

Keeping Dogs Healthy Indoors

Our furry friends count on us to keep them healthy and happy through the winter season even when stuck inside. Take proper precautions this season to avoid issues from arising behind closed doors!

Maintain Exercise & Mental Stimulation

️ Shorter daylight hours and cold snaps can mean dogs have more indoor downtime. Make up for lost physical activity and boredom through:

·         Indoor play using puzzle toys stuffed with kibble or treats

·         Hide-and-seek games

·         Courses of household obstacle

·         Dancing & prancing for handheld treats

·         Treadmill walking on low, dog-safe settings

🐶 A variety of fun activities maintains joint mobility, healthy weights and prevents behavior issues like destructive chewing or nuisance barking from developing too.

Beware Holiday Health Hazards

The holidays usher in a variety of tantalizing temptations for counter surfing canines but some come with a nasty after effect when eaten.

🎄 Secure Christmas trees to prevent tipping. Cover water bowls or use bowls too narrow for heads to decrease chance of electrocution.

🎁 Gift wrappers, strings, ribbons, sewing needles in woolen stocking decor is attractive and highly dangerous. Place out of reach and tightly lid trash cans.

🍖 Spicy grease drippings, fatty meat scraps lead to terrible gastrointestinal issues. Vet ERs see a influx of pancreatitis and bowel obstructions every holiday! Feed only dog-appropriate leftovers.

🍷 Alcoholic beverages left unattended can lead to scary inebriation.

By properly securing hazards, we allow pets to enjoy holiday fun at home safely. It just takes a little forethought and preparedness!

Handle Winter Itch and Dander

️ Indoor heat further dries winter air leading to flaky, itchy skin and aggravated allergies. Rub a warm, damp towel over coats then follow up with targeted solutions:

·         Increase omega fatty acid dietary supplements

·         Add a humidifier in dog rest areas

·         Bathe itchy dogs weekly with moisturizing shampoo and conditioner

·         Discuss allergy testing for reacting canines

Addressing the source cause and keeping the coat clean, well-conditioned staves off scratching fits and secondary skin infections.

Maintain Year Round Parasite Prevention

🧊 Just because it's chilly outside doesn't mean parasite risks end! Indoor dogs still continually shed internal parasites and must remain on monthly preventatives without interruption.

️ Fleas readily overwinter indoors as larvae. Ticks even survive under insulating snow packs. Once spring thaws emerge, parasites rapidly re-emerge to infest unchecked pets.

Stick to your vet recommended schedule for maximum protection! An ounce of prevention equals a pound in parasite treatment down the road.

By taking a little extra care, our dogs thrive inside and outside during challenging winter months. These tips help set pet lovers up for success all season long!