When winter comes, it's easy to overlook the needs of your furry companion. Many people assume that because dogs have a nice warm fur coat, they don't really need much extra attention during the winter months. However, dogs can be affected by winter weather, just as much as people can. Extreme temperatures can lead to a visit to the pet hospital--not ideal! Here are some simple cold weather care tips to help your dog feel happy and healthy all winter long.
1. Make sure you wash their paws.
When you take your dog out for walks, you will need to check their paws, when you get home, to remove bits of ice, small rocks, or salt pieces. Salt is especially irritating and can dry out your dog's feet, leading to bleeding and cracks. For best care, take a warm washcloth, and gently clean the feet, after each trip outside.
2. Remember water.
Dogs can get dehydrated in winter, and you might not notice because it's just not hot enough to make you worry. But if you have a working dog or a dog that goes out for plenty of active hours in the day, be sure to provide plenty to drink. You might also want to increase their food intake, as dogs will burn more calories to stay warm in the winter time.
3. Think twice before bathing and grooming.
You might feel like your dog needs bathing, but if possible, hold off until it's absolutely essential. Bathing too frequently in cold weather can cause skin irritation and dryness. You might notice that your hair and skin is more dry in winter, and your dog is affected similarly. Bathing removes the oils from your dog's skin.
Instead of a full bath, you might gently spot wash areas that need attention, like the feet or behind the ears. If you notice your dog is scratching or their skin is red or flaky, you can talk to your vet about using tea tree oil, or another hydrating oil, to help relieve the irritation.
Some dogs, like poodles, do not shed during winter, but instead, they need to have their hair cut. Avoid getting a close shave haircut for your dog when it's cold -- they need their hair for warmth! Instead, groom as needed to prevent matting, and wait until spring before any drastic cuts.
4. Dress your dog.
You might feel like putting a sweater on your dog is silly, but sometimes, when it's too cold for you outside, it's too cold for your dog. Small dogs absolutely need clothing to go for walks on cold days, but even medium dogs or large dogs could use a sweater when it is cold outside, and all dogs benefit from foot protection.