Winter is here! Can you feel it? If you can, your dog can too. Just as we take extra precautions for ourselves during the winter months, extra care should be taken for our dogs as well. In this article, we’ll be discussing areas that are of specific concern during the cold winter months.
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Dogs’ Fur Coats
Some long-haired dogs might take on even more growth during winter. You may be tempted to trim the extra hair, but if your dog spends any time outside, it is best to leave it. This is a natural way for your dog to better protect itself from the frigid temperatures, adding another layer of insulation. The only time you may want to cut away the fur is if the dog has spent a long time outdoors and has developed clumps of ice that are not easily removed, though regular grooming should help prevent that clumping and matting. Another reason to groom regularly is that knotted fur will also clump and expose areas of the dog’s skin to the cold weather. Keeping the hair brushed will ensure a more even layer of fur to fully cover the dog’s skin. We have a variety of brushes to help with your grooming needs, including the Safari Mat Remover and the HandsOn Grooming Gloves.
One area that requires particular attention is around your dog’s paws. This is an area where trimming the hair can be beneficial. When walking your dog in the snow and slush, the hair in between their toes/pads can collect water and ice, causing discomfort. It is a good practice to keep the fur between the toes trimmed. Retrievers and other water dogs have webbing and can more easily get things trapped between their toes, so extra care should be taken to clean their paws.
While spending time outside, if you notice that your dog is shivering, hopping around, or even lying down, it may be a sign that their paws are too cold, and it is time for them to go back inside. If your dog is not averse to wearing dog boots, you can try that as an option to protect their feet. Besides the danger of freezing hair in between the dog’s toes, salt can also damage their paws. Salt and other chemicals are spread on sidewalks during the winter, which can cause cracking and pain in the dog’s pads. One way to help this is to wash the dog’s paws as soon as you get inside. You can keep a shallow pan of warm water inside the door to wash their feet, inspect them, and then dry them thoroughly before they come all the way inside. A better method is to take a heavy-duty paper towel or washcloth to wash off their feet once they are inside. It can also be helpful to apply a moisture-retaining substance like Bag Balm to their paws.
Making sure your dog has plenty of exercise is important, but during winter weather, exposure to the cold should be limited. Some dogs (like Chihuahuas and Greyhounds, for example) are not bred for winter regions. You should consider dressing them in layers or getting a dog sweater for those short-haired and small breed dogs if you are going to be taking them outside for walks. Even once they are back inside, it may still take a while to get their temperature back up and a warm dry bed will help, or even a blanket or thick bath towel. Bathing during winter should be done less, but when it is necessary, make sure to dry their fur completely; especially if they are going to go back outside. It can take a long time for a dog’s hair to fully dry. Check out our variety of pet beds they can snuggle in. For added warmth, you may consider a heated pet mat.
Humans can typically get dry skin during the winter and this is true for dogs as well. As mentioned before, bathing should be kept to a minimum, not only to help with maintaining a warm temperature, but also to prevent overly dry skin. When bathing becomes necessary, try to use a shampoo that has a moisturizer or use a moisturizing pet conditioner. There are also soothing sprays for dogs that have a propensity for dry, itchy skin. Adding coconut oil or fish oil to your dog’s diet can help with dry skin as well.
We usually think of pets needing to remain hydrated during the hot summer months but having enough water during the winter is particularly important as well. During the cold winter months, humidity is much lower, causing the need for more water. Encouraging your dog to drink will also help their dry skin. Consider investing in a heated pet bowl for your animals that spend a lot of time outdoors. After bringing your dog in after their walk, it is important for them to have a supply of fresh water inside too.
Just as the cold can have an impact on our joints, causing stiffness and pain, the same can be true for dogs. Senior dogs, especially, can have more trouble walking up and down stairs and navigating. A heated pet bed can be soothing for your arthritic or senior dogs. There are also Joint Supplement Soft Chews that have proven effective.
Our pets are important to us and we want to make sure we are taking special care of their needs during times when they may be more vulnerable. These are small steps, but they make a big and important difference in the quality and health of our furry companions. Click here to watch an informational video from professional dog trainer Ken Steepe.
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