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Cold weather tips for dogs

In some parts of the country, winterizing your pets is not so much of a concern. Here in Minnesota, where layered clothing is a fashion statement taking care of our pets during harsh weather is an important survival skill.

Wolf pair in winter painting by Kathleen Riley
Kathleen Riley-Daniels

Feet and Pads

  • Remove ice, salt or snow from your dog's coat and paws as soon as you come inside.
  • Thoroughly dry damp feet to prevent cracked, sore pads.
  • Spread petroleum jelly, olive oil or baby oil on your dog's paws if the pads are cracked. This will soften the skin and prevent more cracking. Do this both before and after you walk your dog or have him outside. You may also want to use "booties" on your dog's feet to help protect them. If you are walking your dog on really cold days, booties are an excellent investment.
  • Trim the paw hair to keep snow from forming ice pellets on the bottom of his feet. Trim the hair so it is even with the pads. Use a scissors with a blunt tip in case the feet are ticklish, that way you shouldn't cut the pads.
  • Keep toenails properly trimmed. Long nails lower traction and make your dog walk on the back of his paws which spreads the toes and leaves them open for collecting snow and chemicals.

Skin and Coat

  • Brush frequently to stimulate production of oil and remove dead hair from the coat. This will help keep your dog's coat and skin in good condition which will help him deal better with winter.
  • Frostbite is a concern for dogs in cold climates. The most common areas for frostbite are the tips of the ears, tip of the tail and the paw pads. If your dog has skin that looks reddish, white or gray and is scaly, peeling or cold to the touch, it may be frostbite. Call you veterinarian immediately for instructions on rewarming the area with tepid or warm water. NEVER use hot water on frostbite.
  • Fish oil can help condition your dog's coat during the dry winter months. Many dogs can get the amount they need in a super premium pet food. If your dog's coat still seems dry, you can also find fish oil supplements at your local pharmacy. (The omega fatty acids found in fish oil work on a cellular level to support good health. In humans and pets, the balance of these nutrients is critical. Correctly balanced ratios of omega fatty acids can nutritionally support the natural healing process and promote a healthy and shiny coat.)
  • Coats for dogs are an excellent way to keep your dog warm while enjoying walks. Fashions now come in many styles and sizes so there are likely to be several choices for your companion.

Temperature

  • Never leave your dog in a car during cold weather. A car can act like a refrigerator in the winter, holding in the cold. If left too long, your companion could freeze to death.
  • If you dog is sensitive to cold due to age, illness or breed type, take him out only long enough to relieve himself and then bring him back indoors.
  • Puppies do not tolerate the cold as well as adult dogs be sure not to leave them outside too long. The up side is house training often goes more quickly when they don't care to be outside in the cold.
  • Never shave your dog down to the skin in winter. Leave the coat in a longer style for more warmth. Remember that longer coats will need more brushing due to dry winter air and static electricity. When you bathe your dog be sure they are completely dry before taking them out for a winter stroll.
  • Have a warm place for your companion to sleep away from drafts and off the floor. A good quality dog or cat bed with a warm blanket or pad in it works great.

Antifreeze

  • Antifreeze, even in very small doses, is a lethal poison for dogs and cats. Unfortunately, because it has a sweet taste, animals are attracted to it. Be certain to thoroughly clean up any spills from you vehicle. To prevent accidental poisonings, more and more people are using products containing propylene glycol rather than ethylene glycol. If your companion has gotten into antifreeze call your veterinarian immediately.

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