Winter-wise advice for dogs
Want to take good care of your dog in winter? Here’s how to help your canine chum get through this cold, dark season safely...
Wrap up warm
Although they come fully equipped with a fur coat, many dogs feel the cold as much as we do. Puppies and short-haired dogs – such as Chihuahuas, Greyhounds, Dobermans and Staffordshire Bull Terriers – are most vulnerable and should be kitted out with a cosy winter coat. As a rule of thumb, If the weather is chilly enough for you to need a coat, so do they. For longer-haired dogs, keep up your grooming regime – matted fur won’t insulate as well against snow and wintry rain.
It’s snow joke
Snow can be disorientating and affect animals’ sense of smell, so always make sure your dog is microchipped (with up-to-date details) and wearing an ID tag in case they get lost. It’s a myth that dogs can always find their way home. There may also be sharp objects, such as rusty metal or broken glass lurking in snowdrifts, which can cause painful injuries.
Light up your life
Animal charity PDSA has some good advice when it comes to after-dark winter walkies. The charity states: “During the winter months you should consider using high visibility jackets, hi-vis or LED collars and leads to be seen and keep safe.” There are all sorts of great products to consider – from LED dog jackets and fleecy hi-vis neckerchiefs to colourful flashing collars.
If your dog has a tendency to disappear among the trees or deep into the undergrowth, tracking them down in darkness can be tricky. That’s when some hi-tech help in the form of a GPS pet tracker can come in really handy.
The big freeze
Always keep your dog away from frozen ponds and lakes as it’s impossible to gauge the thickness of the ice or how deep the freezing water below is. Thin ice may break under a dog’s weight.
Winter weather increases the risk of poisoning from antifreeze, which tastes sweet to pets. Check your car for leaks, as even a small amount can be lethal if ingested. Seek immediate veterinary advice if your pet appears ‘drunk’ after coming into contact with antifreeze.
Winter can be tough on your dog’s paws. De-icing chemicals can be toxic and rock salt used on pavements and roads will irritate any cracks or cuts. To keep your pet’s paws healthy in winter, follow these tips:
- Carefully trim away any long hair between your dog’s pads, as this will prevent uncomfortable ice balls forming around them.
- Next, apply a thin layer of Vaseline or specially designed nose and paw balm to protect their pads and prevent cracking.
- When you get home from your walk, wash your dog’s paws, giving the areas between their toes special attention, and dry them carefully. Then add a little more balm to each foot, to keep the pads supple.
Coughs and colds?
Kennel cough is the common name given to infectious bronchitis in dogs. Just as with chest infections in humans, a number of different bacteria and viruses can cause the illness, which is highly contagious. The most obvious symptom is a hacking cough, which often sounds like your dog has something stuck in their throat. Apart from coughing, the infection is unlikely to make them feel ill. However, puppies, elderly dogs and those with existing medical conditions can be susceptible to complications such as pneumonia, which is an inflammation of the lungs, so always consult your vet. In most cases, dogs will recover without treatment within three weeks. A kennel cough vaccine is available from your vet.
We’re in this together
Wintertime is easier to get through when you focus on all the little things you can do to cheer up your canine chum. After all, if they’re happy, you’re happy!
- It’s important to ensure that your dog has as much access to daylight and fresh air as possible. Ensure your furry friend is walked at least once a day during daylight to soak up some vital Vitamin D and give ‘feel good’ serotonin levels a boost.
- Place your dog’s bed near a sunny window – more light entering your pet’s pupils can have a positive effect on their brain chemistry.
- Think up some exciting indoor games such as ‘hide and seek’ with a favourite toy or some treats, bouncing a balloon on their nose and playing tuggie. Place some of their food ration inside Kongs or food puzzles to give them fun and challenging tasks to do.
- As well as walkies, make time to interact with your canine companion every day to talk to them, play with them and to give them lots of attention and affection.
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Sources: petmd.com, pdsa.org.uk, rspca.org.uk