Caring for your Dog in Winter
Although winter may not be your favourite season, it does have some aspects to recommend it. These include enjoying a snow day with your children, or waking up to a sunny, frosty morning that clears all those winter bugs away, or going for a walk with your dog on a deserted beach with not a tourist in sight!
Like you, your dog feels the cold during winter – don’t be fooled by his woolly coat. He will also need slightly different care to ensure he stays healthy and well throughout the long darker months. Here are a few of our top tips to make sure you both enjoy the winter as much as you can.
Depending on your breed or type of dogs, some don’t cope with the cold well and will need an extra layer when you go out for a walk. Shivering or a reluctance to go outside is a sure sign your dog could do with a coat. Hi Viz jackets are the best type, as they also show up in overcast conditions, making your dog easier to spot if he suddenly disappears after a rabbit.
Indoors, make sure his bed is not in a draughty area, and is as warm and cosy as you can make it.
Your dog’s paws need special attention in winter. If they are quite feathery, such as a Spaniel, they may need trimming to stop snow and ice forming ‘clinkers’. This will also help prevent the mud from sticking as much.
Ice, constant water, snow and grit can affect your dog’s paws, causing them to crack or become sore over time. After every walk, make sure you dry them off thoroughly, and observe them closely for any signs of wear and tear.
Bathing them regularly in an antibacterial shampoo such as Aqueos helps remove any embedded grit, and if your dogs does develop a few cracks, it will help keep them clean and lessen the risk of infection. You can also use a salve to keep the pads supple – ask your vets advise for a recommendation.
Dirt and mud
There’s no doubt a dog is attracted to dirt, and there is no shortage of it during winter. Bath time seems more common at this time of year! Use warm water, a quality dog shampoo with anti-bacterial properties to keep your dog’s skin healthy and dry him off thoroughly. Then stand back as he careers around the house – his natural way of warming up and drying off.
On a daily basis, if your dog will stand for it, use a warm foot bath and clean his paws off before letting him in the house. Again, makes sure they are dried well.
It’s important to still take your dogs out and have plenty of play time but be aware of the conditions. A dog chasing the ball tends to have tunnel vision and won’t be aware of that icy pond or slippy patch. If walking on the road, go slowly and let them get used to the feel of the surface. Beaches are ideal places to walk in the winter, so if you are lucky enough to live nearby, make the most of this facility.
Dogs tend to be less active in winter, so take care not to overfeed. If they spend most to their time in your warm house they won’t need the extra calories to keep warm. Keep an eye on his weight and adjust his feed accordingly.
Dogs coats are longer in winter and can become matted if not cared for. Groom regularly, making sure you gently de-tangle any big knots or cut them out. Use a brush that gets down to the skin, as this is a great way to stimulate circulation.
Some dogs are fire-huggers so make sure they don’t burn themselves. Also, put your anti-freeze away straight after you’ve used it; it’s highly toxic to dogs (and cats) but is sweet smelling and tasting to dogs, so they can be tempted to lick it.
During the winter months your dog’s immune system may be lowered, so keep an eye on his general health. If he is older or arthritic, he may find this time of year quite challenging, so if any doubt, speak to your vet.
At the end of day, nobody knows your dog like you do. Monitor him closely over winter, and you should pick up problems before they become major issues. Most of all, make time for your dog. It may be dark early, but there’s nothing to stop you having a game of tag in the living room - - just don’t let your dog get too rowdy if you want to protect your ornaments!