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Preparing your dog for winter

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With the colder temperatures now making their arrival in the city of Boston, we find ourselves digging through closets and drawers to pull out the coats, mittens and scarves to keep warm and protect us against the bitter chill. As we prepare to brave the winter weather, we should also be mindful of our dogs' care and comfort at this time. 

The first step in preparing dogs for winter is determining whether or not they need any outdoor gear, such as a coat or booties. Depending on your dog's breed and comfort level with cold temperatures, you may need to look into buying them a winter coat. These are widely available through pet stores and pet supply companies, and come in a variety of colors, sizes and textures. Before buying, make sure to take your pet's measurements around the neck, shoulders and chest so that you can select the appropriate size.

This is also an optimal time to assess whether or not your dog needs booties. This protective footwear can keep your dog's paws safe from frostbite and can aid them in walking over ice and snow. Again, the need for these is dependent on the dog's breed and their ability to withstand cold temperatures, as well as the amount of time the dog will be spending in inclement weather. If you do determine that your dog needs booties, allow them to become accustomed to wearing them inside before you bring them outdoors. 

Paw care also becomes especially important for dogs during the winter months. The pads on a dog's paws are built to protect their joints from shock, insulate against extreme heat or cold, and prevent injury from rough terrain. In colder weather, their paws need extra attention to make sure these daily demands are met. Following are some ways to ensure that your dog's paws are in prime condition:

  • Grooming - Make sure to regularly trim your dog's nails  to avoid snagging, and remove any excess paw hair that may become matted. Also, check regularly for any foreign objects lodged in their pads. 
  • Moisturizing - A dog's pads can become extremely dry and cracked in the wintertime. Check with your veterinarian to see which moisturizer they recommend. Do not use human hand or body lotion, as this can have an adverse effect on their pads and actually cause more harm than good. 
  • Washing - The chemicals found in rock salt and ice melting compounds used in the winter can wreak havoc on a dog's paws, and can cause further damage if ingested when a dog licks them to clean themselves. After each walk, clean your dog's paws thoroughly with a warm towel to remove any chemical residue. 

Taking the appropriate measures to ensure that your dog is well-equipped for the winter months will result in a happier and healthier winter season for both you and your pet. To learn more about how to care for your dog in the winter, visit the ASPCA or Best Friends Animal Society