Protect Dogs from Hazards of Winter Wonderland

Dogs love winter, even more than most people. Their fur coats protect them from the cold at least for short bursts, and snow gives them something new and different to dig and tunnel through. Their walks have a whole different feel, and the heat of summer is a distant memory.

But the cold weather can cause some issues. Just like it does for their people. So here are some tips on how to make sure your pup has as good a time during this season as they deserve to!

Protect the paws: Just like in summer, their paws can be damaged by the temperature of the ground or the substances that are on it.

  • If you have a long-haired dog, make sure the hair on their feet is trimmed closely, so ice balls won’t develop between their paws and food.
  • The rock salt, calcium chloride and other de-icing products found on sidewalks and parking lots can irritate wet paws by reacting with the damp the same way it does with ice — a chemical reaction which causes burning or painful sensations your dog will probably let you know about. Steer clear whenever you can and rinse the paws off as soon as you get home.
  • Consider booties or other foot protection — trust us, they’ll make it past that endlessly comical “high stepping” stage.

Keep it short and sweet: The fact is that most dogs other than the truly winter-ready breeds like huskies and St. Bernards don’t have that much of an extra winter coat, so it takes them time to adjust to the cold.

  • Particularly at the beginning of the cold temps you need to let them have shorter playtimes and watch how they and their bodies respond. If they get soaked quickly, it’s best to bring them inside and start planning more indoor activities.
  • When it gets below 32 degrees watch for frostbite, which can develop most quickly on the tips of tails and ears. Take blue or white skin as a warning to get your dog indoors as fast as you can.

Watch puppies, seniors and certain breeds: Just like humans, very young and old dogs aren’t as proficient at keeping their body temperatures in a good range. Certain breeds or mixes whose ancestors weren’t bred with winter in mind may also need some help.

  • Puppies up to 8 weeks old should never be taken outside in the cold, as their bodies have not developed the temperature regulation systems they need and their undercoats have not grown in. As they get older, you can start introducing them to the outside carefully, for shorter “test” periods than you would for an adult dog.
  • Senior dogs are also more delicate, and sweaters and jackets, booties and other winter gear will be even more appreciated by these guys. A vet can also give you suggestions for supplements to ease joint pain and other ailments that tend to flare up in the cold.

Certain breeds, from Chihuahuas to Dobermans, have coats that just aren’t going to keep them warm in the winter. Seriously consider buying a jacket or sweater for their comfort. Yes, those will be easier to find on the Chihuahua end of the spectrum, but we can order garments for your big boys and girls, if necessary.