Tips On Caring For Your Pooch During The Winter Months
The days are now shorter and the nights colder and with the change our pooches will need a little extra care. Here are some tips to help you and your pooch cope with the cold wintry months ahead.
1. Is Your Dog Cold?
How do you know if it is too cold for your dog? If it is too cold for you to stand outside without a coat then it is probably too cold for your pooch as well. Be careful to monitor your pet for signs of them being cold, these include shivering and shaking, verbal clues like whining or barking, and behavioural changes such as an unwillingness to go outside. It is recommended to limit your pet’s exposure to cold wet weather as overexposure could lead to hypothermia.
Hypothermia in dogs is a medical condition that is characterised by an abnormally low body temperature and can occur from exposure to the cold, submersion in cold water for a prolonged period, having a wet coat or skin, or being in a state of shock. Smaller breeds, short haired breeds, puppies and seniors dogs are more prone to rapid loss of surface heat and are at higher risk, so take extra care when venturing outside if your pooch falls into one of these categories. Try taking shorter but more frequent daily walks and make sure to wrap your pooch in weather proof clothing and other accessories to protect against the elements. There are plenty of styles of clothing to choose from however for best protection choose a coat that covers all the area from the neck down to the base of the tail and also covers the chest and belly. This will still leave your pooches ears, feet and tail exposed so you will need to limit their time outside in cold temperatures.
2. How Much Grooming Is Required?
A dog’s ability to regulate their body temperature is affected by the condition of their coat. Matting and a build-up of dead undercoat coat can impact the thermoregulation process and your pet’s ability to keep themselves warm. Many people think they do not need to groom their pets during the colder months and the more hair they have the better it is for the dog; this is not always the case. Breeds such as Labradors should have shedding coat removed to maintain good skin and coat health and support the thermoregulation process. Longer haired breeds and those with thicker coats will also need regular grooming as the wetter weather makes it more difficult to maintain a mat free coat. If your pooch is prone to matting here are a few tips for at home management
– Don’t roughly towel dry your wet pooch, instead gently blot with a chamois towel, blow dry on a low heat setting and comb the hair thoroughly to avoid hair becoming tangled which can lead to matting.
– Repeated wettings without thorough combing will lead to knots, tangles and matting. Use a comb to groom dogs with thicker coats to ensure you are getting through their coat, using a brush alone may only glide over the top of the coat and not separate the hair closer to the skin.
– Using a conditioning spray formulated for use on your dog will help with at home combing and keeping your pooch mat free. Make sure you purchase a spray that doesn’t contain any harsh ingredients; tips on how to choose the best grooming products for your dog can be found here.
– To reduce how muddy your dog gets purchase a coat that also provides chest and belly coverage which helps keep your pooch cleaner and warmer on their walks.
– Unfortunately damp muddy paws are a stable of the winter months. For thick coated breeds such as Cocker Spaniels and Shih Tzu getting legs trimmed a little shorter than usual and keeping hair under paws trimmed will help reduce drying time after walks and also protect your pooch from potential skin irritations caused by a damp coat.
3. Paw and Nose Care
Cracked dry noses and paws are common winter aliments. In addition to the cold wet weather, grit and salt from paths treated for ice can also irritate the paws. To protect your pooches paws
– Apply a paw balm before their daily walk. Choose a non-greasy quickly absorbed paw balm to avoid dirt sticking to the skin.
– Always wash your dog’s feet after each walk to remove any undesirables that may have attached to the paws. You do not want them licking and ingesting any salt or toxic antifreeze than may have collected on their paws during their walk.
– Reapply balm after washing and drying the paws to soothe and rejuvenate the skin.
– Some dogs may benefit from dog booties to protect their paws from the cold and snow.
– Hair between your dog’s pads should be kept trimmed short.
– Apply a natural nose balm before walks to protect against cracking and chapping.
– Coconut oil applied topically is also a great option to treat dry paws, ears or noses.
4. Protecting Against Snow and Ice
Most pooches love playing in the snow! While being lots of fun this activity has some special considerations.
– Keep your pet away from snow piles and trees or roofs with snow build up as these can become dislodged and injure your pet.
– Never allow your dog to wander onto ice covered ponds and lakes as these may not be thick enough to support their weight.
– Running through deep snow is physically demanding especially if your dog is overweight, a senior, a puppy or a small breed. Limit the time your dog spends in the snow and monitor your dog for any signs of distress or lowering of body temperature.
– Snow, ice and damp weather can be painful for a dog with arthritis so ensure they spend a minimum amount of time outside and use our tips above for when your dogs is outdoors. Playing indoors is a great way to keep activity levels up during the colder months.
– Prevent your pooch from drinking from ponds or puddles as these could be contaminated with salt or toxic antifreeze.
– Icy surfaces can cause a dog to slip and may result in a sprained limb or a ruptured cruciate ligament.
– It is very important to remove any snow or ice that has collected on your dogs coat or paws. Hard balls of snow that collect on your dogs paws can feel like stones under their feet and be very painful. Never pull or tug snow balls from the coat as this is very painful and may cause your pet to yelp or nip. Instead soak a cloth in warm water and gently massage the snowballs to dissolve, or if you dog is large slowly pour warm water over the areas massaging the coat as you do so. Once all the snowballs are melted blot the coat using a chamois towel, dry on a low heat setting, and comb thoroughly if applicable.
5. Happy Bedtime
We all like getting into a cosy bed when it is cold outside and that is no different for our pooches. All dogs should be provided with a bed to relax in and not sleep on a cold floor. For their comfort choose a bed that is the right size i.e. one that allows your dog to stretch or sprawl out fully rather than a bed that only provides enough room for your dog to curl up in. When a dog is stretched out this is a sign that they are not cold! Provide them with a cosy blanket and place the bed away from drafts and cold floors. For senior dogs a heated pet bed can help ease stiff joints and aches and pains. To ensure they get a good night sleep their bed should be placed in a quiet warm spot away from any hustle and bustle. Small breeds, short haired breeds, puppies and seniors may also benefit from wearing a jumper at night for added cosiness when the temperature drops. Most dogs now live inside with us but if you do normally keep your dog outside then bring them indoors during the cold winter months as no dog should be left outdoors when the temperature drops.
6. Caring for Senior Dogs
The colder weather will often be problematic for elderly dogs that have arthritis and other joint or back problems. If you dog is not already receiving a natural dietary supplement to lubricate their joints and ease the pain of arthritis adding this to their diet will help soothe stiff joints and promote mobility. Maintaining an exercise routine will help ease keep them mobile however do be mindful to keep them off slippery surfaces, out of deep snow, and limit their expose to harsh weather. Also don’t forget to wrap your pet up in a warm weatherproof coat when outdoors, and provide a cosy bed as seniors are more susceptible to body heat loss.
7. Caring for Puppies
Puppies are more affected by the cold than adult dogs so they need some extra consideration at this time of year. Invest in good quality protective coat for when venturing outdoors and a warm jumper to wear indoors especially at bedtime when the temperature drops. Dry your puppy as quickly as possible after walks and keep their coats well combed to avoid matting, they may not need a haircut but regular grooming is still required. Take shorter walks and supplement with lots of indoor playtime, and make note of the other tips included in this article as they apply to puppies.
During the colder months some owners and pets are less inclined to venture outside which results in less exercise. This in turn means less calorie expenditure so continuing to feed the same amount of food in these less active dogs will result in unhealthy weight gain. Cut back on treats and meal portion sizes relative to the reduction in exercise. If you are unsure of how much to reduce by speak with your vet or a Canine Nutritionist.
For dogs that continue with the same level of exercise and do spend time outside additional calories are required. These can be introduced by switching from one to two or three smaller meals per day. We all like the feeling of a warm meal during the colder months and the same goes for our pooches. Warm foods help reduce constriction in the body enabling blood to flow away from the core to the extremities which helps create a sense of warmth. Warm meals are recommended for all dogs but especially puppies, seniors, small and short haired breeds.
– Try adding some warm, no-salt chicken broth to their food to beat the winter chill. This not only makes the meal super tasty it also increases the volume of food your pooch will eat as warm food stimulates a dogs desire to eat.
– Warm water can be added to kibble, canned, dehydrated or freeze dried foods to create a ‘stew’ like meal.
– Be sure to thoroughly defrost raw frozen food before serving. Steamed vegetables or warm bone broth can be added to raw food to introduce some warmth to the meal.
– Warm vegetables and sweet potato added to their food is a good way of introducing more fibre and warmth to a meal.
– Fish and coconut oils are great for preventing dry skin and coat and keeping your pooch healthy. A daily supplement in the run up to and during the cold weather will benefit most dogs.
– Do not serve cold water to your pet. Replace their water a few times each day and make sure to serve it at room temperature.
Despite the winter weather our pets still need their daily exercise. The best time of day to walk your pooch is late morning or early afternoon when the temperatures are a little warmer. Take advantage of any winter sunshine and bring a ball or other safe toy to play with, this not only helps get more exercise in than walking alone, it’s a great way to raise your pet’s body temperature. Supplement with indoor play to ensure your pooch is getting the required amount of daily exercise.
The change in season brings a wide range of concerns for pet parents. Employing the tips above will help you keep your pooch safe and happy during the winter months.
If you have any questions about the topics in this article please do not hesitate to contact the Spa on 01252 216 100 or firstname.lastname@example.org where a member of our team would be delighted to assist you.
Our Canine Nutritionist can assist with planning your pet’s meals to fit their requirements at this time of year. We also have a wide range of grooming and protective products, and coats and jackets in our Spa boutique to help you find the right products to keep your pooch safe and warm this winter!