In some respects, winter can be a great time of year for dog owners. The local dog spots are quieter for starters and the usual chaos that keeps us away from our dogs during warmer months slows to more general flow, particularly after the Christmas period, as people gently ease themselves into another new year.
But winter can also be a rather testing time of year too what with darker nights, muddy puddles and not to mention the inevitable dread that comes with trying to navigate the leaf trodden ground where you just know a rouge poop pile is just waiting for it’s next victim. And that is just the plight that we humans face during the winter season, not to mention our beloved dogs, who also need a little extra TLC too.
Whilst some breeds of dog relish this time of year, most dogs are not acclimatised to the bitterness that winter can bring. Puppies and senior dogs in particular are the most susceptible to challenges that winter presents and illnesses related to temperature, such as hypothermia and frostbite become more likely to occur.
So in order to enjoy winter and make the most of this time of year, preparation is key so here are our top tips for keeping your dog healthy and happy this winter.
- Check (and wipe) pads, noses, tails and toes after each outing.
This is especially relevant if you notice salt grit on the roads or for thick coated dogs whose hair may be longer in the pads. Salt from road gritters can act as an abrasive in places where the skin may rub together, causing small cuts which then allow for other bacteria and foreign bodies to enter the wound site. In addition, salt can be an irritant to some dogs, causing them to lick excessively and make the contact site very sore and swollen. Booties can be great for adding extra protection and don’t have to cost the earth either. If you’re crafty enough, take a look at Pinterest for lots of inspirational how-to articles that show you how you can make your own.
Antifreeze is also a pets deadly enemy at this time of year too as it is highly toxic to animals, and pets who do manage to ingest antifreeze need immediate medical attention from a veterinary practitioner. The active ingredient in antifreeze that is lethal to animals is called ethylene glycol, which is very sweet smelling and attractive to them, so check your brand to see if this ingredient is listed. Check for spills and leaks and clean these up immediately if you notice any. It is good practice to fill your car at your local garage or service station rather than on your drive or street if you can. Keep in mind too that ingestion can occur just from licking the pads, so if you walk in an area where traffic is prevalent it is best to always err on the side of caution and wash pads and underbellies regardless.
2. Layer up.
Why not take inspiration from the Beckhams on this one and get your dog their own fancy coat! Having fur is just not enough, dogs with low body fat and short coats need extra insulation from the cold, especially those that are indoor pets that are more acclimatised to environments that are centrally heated. There are literally thousands of styles on the market today, all designed for purpose too, whether that be hiking, running or just trendsetting! Make sure that whatever coat you choose is water resistant (step away from the woolly jumper aisle….don’t look back….you can do this) and is fit for purpose, ie if you have a dachshund you’ll need something to protect the underbelly and reflective too. For a great range of multi-purpose coats, take a look at the Hurtta range; www.hurtta.com
3. Keep your water bottle with you.
This is especially relevant in winter as it is in summer. Extreme cold can have the same effect on dogs as can extreme heat when it comes to dehydration. For some dogs, as little as 15 minutes is all it takes for dehydration to start and without access to water, dehydrated dogs can become very ill very quickly. Keep in mind that you don’t want the water to freeze in the bottle, now that really would be annoying, so a hiking bottle that comes with a removable cover is perfect.
4. Up their food allowance (if necessary).
Just because you’ve eaten too much over Christmas and have resolved to reduce your calorie intake shouldn’t mean that the same principle is applied to your dog. The longer a dog spends outside, the harder their bodies have to work at regulating their temperature and so its possible for a dog to burn up to 30% more calories during the winter season. As with anything when it comes to dogs diets, always refer to manufacturers guidelines as to what amount you should be feeding. If your dog seems to be losing weight (but is otherwise happy, healthy and hydrated) then increase the amount of food. If your dog is unfortunate enough to suffer from a bit of a post-Crimbo wobble then decrease the amount until the dog is at their ideal weight again.
5. Consider using the skills you learnt in obedience class!
When you see your dog heading towards a frozen pond or lake…’COME’
When you see your dog about to lick a strange looking puddle… ‘LEAVE IT’
When you see that patch of ice, on a hill… ‘HEEL’
…ok, you get the picture, we’ll say no more!