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Winter Care for Your Dog
With the onset of winter, you need to take proper care of your four legged friend to prevent serious health problems. Many dog owners live with the misconception that because their pets have fur, they can tolerate the cold better than humans. This is not true. Like us, our furry friends are used to the warmth of indoor shelter and cold weather can be harsh on them as it is on us humans. Whatever your viewpoint on winter, one thing remains certain: it’s a time when our pets need a little extra care.
In excessive cold, the body automatically pulls blood from the extremities to the center of the body to stay warm. The dog’s ears, paws or tail can get so cold that ice crystals can form in the tissue and damage it. Watch for signs of pale or grey skin; the skin may also turn hard and cold. Excessive fall in temperature may also lead to frostbite. Though the frostbitten areas remain warm, they can be extremely painful. Severely frostbitten skin will eventually turn black and slough off.
A serious winter weather concern is hypothermia. This occurs when a dog spends too much time in the cold, gets wet in cold temperature, or when dogs with poor health or circulation are exposed to cold. In mild cases, the dog will shiver; ears and feet may grow cold. As hypothermia progresses, they show signs of depression, lethargy and weakness. As the condition worsens, muscles will stiffen, heart and breathing rates slow down, and the dog will not respond to stimuli. Severe hypothermia is life threatening.
Is your dog cold?
If it is too cold for you to stand at the door without your coat, it’s probably too cold for your dog too, so pay attention to his behaviour while he is outdoors.
If you notice your dog whining, shivering or appearing anxious, or s/he stops playing and seems to be looking for places to burrow, then it’s time to bring him in.
Keep an eye on the temperature
Some dog breeds are blessed with thick fur that keeps them warm naturally even in very cold temperatures, but dogs with thin coats may need to wear a sweater or coat when out for winter walks. A good coat should reach from the neck to the base of the tail and also protect the belly. But even with a cozy coat, don’t keep your short haired dog out too long in freezing temperatures.
Allow your dog to go out when the sun shines
The happiest dogs are taken out frequently for walks and exercise but live inside the rest of the time. Don’t leave pets outdoors alone when the temperature drops. A good rule of thumb is to go out with them and when you’re ready to come in, they probably will be too. If your dog feels the cold, try to walk him in the late morning or early afternoon hours when temperatures are a little warmer. Avoid early morning or late evening walks. Spend time playing outdoors while it’s sunny. Sunshine brings the added benefit of providing both you and your pet with vitamin D.
In addition to limiting your dog’s time outdoors on cold days, don’t let your pooch sleep on a cold floor in winter. Choosing the right bedding is vital to ensure your dog stays warm. Warm blankets can create a snug environment; raised beds can keep your dog off cold tiles or concrete, and heated pet beds can help keep the stiffness out of aging joints. Place your dog’s bed in a warm spot away from drafts, cold tile or uncarpeted floors, preferably in a favourite spot where he sleeps every day so that the area doesn’t feel unfamiliar.
Protect your dog from heater
Dogs will often seek heat during cold winter by snuggling too close to heating sources. Avoid space heaters and install baseboard radiator covers to avoid your pet getting burned. Fireplaces also pose a major threat so please make sure you have a pet proof system to keep your heat-seeking pal out of harm’s way.
Keep your dog moisturised
Dry and cold weather can lead to dry skin problems. Help prevent dry, flaky skin by adding a skin and coat supplement to his food. Coconut, corn oil and fish oils are easy foods that can help keep your pet’s skin and coat healthy. If you find your pets paws, ears or tail are dry or cracking, you can also apply coconut oil topically as needed.
No overfeeding please!
Metabolic activities of the body increases during winter and your dog may ask for more and more food. Unless your dog lives outdoors during the winter, he usually won’t need any additional calories during this time. Be attentive to your dog’s activity level and adjust his calories accordingly.
Hydration of your dog is important
Dogs can dehydrate just as quickly in winter as summer. If your dog spends time outdoors in your yard, make sure he has access to a water bowl, check it often.
Just as we tend to develop foot cracks in winter, dogs can also suffer from cracked pads. If you notice any sign of pain, redness, swelling or bleeding…consult your vet immediately.
Care of old dogs
Cold weather will often aggravate existing medical conditions in senior dogs, particularly arthritis. It’s very important to maintain an exercise regimen with your arthritic dog, but be mindful and make sure your dog has a warm soft rest area to recuperate after activity. If you don’t give your senior dog a natural joint supplement to lubricate the joints and ease the discomfort of arthritis, you may want to consider adding one in winter. Just like people, dogs are more susceptible to other illnesses during winters.