Just like what the slogan of House Stark means, Winter literally is coming. Thus, the time of the year when all things froze over and wither away has arrived. Out of the four seasons of one year, if Spring is the representative for the beginning of life, Summer represents the peak of life, Fall is the symbol of weakening, and finally, Winter is, as always, the symbol of death. During this season, nothing can last too long without some sorts of heat sources. In Winter, the temperature drops down significantly, so it has become quite important that people have all sorts of methods and ways to keep their bodies from getting cold weather issues. We dug through our closets looking for socks and scarves.
However, although we are all preparing quite well for ourselves, most of us usually overlook the preparations for our pets. This case is especially true for dogs, as we are all under the assumption that due to their fur, they will not be too affected by the cold. However, that is not true at all. Even though their furs are quite great at keeping their body heat up, the dogs still need a lot of care during the times of winter. I am sure that none of us will want our dogs to be in pain due to the cold weather of winter. Thus, I will share with you some tips for dog care during the cold season of 2020.
The Risks During Winter
To start things off, we should talk about the conditions that are common in the winter so that you can be aware of them.
This condition is due to the dog’s body getting cold. When it gets cold, the body will pull blood automatically to its center from the extremities to stay warm. The tail, paws, and ears of a dog can get so cold ice crystals may form in the tissues, damaging it. The tricky part in preventing frostbite is the fact that it is not obvious immediately at all. To identify frostbites on your pup, you should first keep tracks on any grey or pale skin parts. In addition, those skin areas may have a chance of turning cold and hard. When the frostbitten areas warm up again, it will be exceptionally painful for the dog. If the frostbitten areas are left for too long, they will just turn black and then slough off eventually.
Another serious concern when winter comes is in fact hypothermia. This often occurs after a dog spends too long a time outside in the cold weather, or when those with poor circulation or health get exposed to the cold, or if the dog gets itself wet in the cold temperatures. If it is just a mild case of hypothermia, the feet and ears of the dog will grow cold and it will shiver. As the hypothermia keeps getting more severe, the dog will start to show signs of weaknesses, lethargy, and depression. After a long time of getting hypothermia, the dog will not respond to any kind of stimuli, its breathing rates, as well as heartbeat, will slow down and the muscles will stiffen.
It is quite important to protect your pup from these two problems.
How to determine if your pup is cold?
If it is too cold for you standing at your house’s door even with your coat equipped, then it is also too cold for your pup, probably. Thus, you must always pay a lot of attention to the pup when it is playing outside.
The moment you notice the pup starts appearing anxious, shivering, or whining, you should bring her into the house as soon as possible. Another way to determine is to see if the pup has stopped playing altogether and is looking for a place to burrow itself.
Now, we go into the main course, the tips to care for your pup in the harsh weather of winter.
1. Temperature, the most important thing
There obviously are breeds of dogs that are blessed through having fur so thick that they will be naturally warm in all kinds of scenarios, even in the coldest of temperatures. However, the number of dogs who do not have that kind of fur far outweighs those who do. Thus, for the ones that do not have thick enough fur, they must have a coat or a sweater on their bodies whenever they go out to enjoy a walk in winter. A great coat is one that can reach from the pup’s neck all the way to the very base of its tail. However, you must remember coats cannot protect against frostbite on the pup’s ears. Thus, never keep the short-haired pup outside for too long if the weather is cold.
2. Remember to let the pup out when there is sunshine
If your pup is affected by the harsh cold weather of winter, you should try to let her out of the house in specific times when it is warmer. Usually, this means early afternoon or late morning hours, and you must always try to avoid walking the pup in the late evening or early morning. One of the best ways to keep the body warm is to spend time playing outside when the sun shines. The sunshine will provide your pup and also yourself with a healthy dose of vitamin D. You should also remember to not play with sticks, as they can make the pup choked. There is nothing healthier for both you and your dog than playing around in the sunshine.
3. Limit the time your pup spends outdoor
Even though the best way to keep your pup in perfect condition is playing outside, you must remember that this is unlike any other seasons. The outside world is at its scariest when the cold and harsh breezes of winter arrive. Even the furriest pup there is can still get cold. As I have told you above, the pup’s tail, ears, and paws are all easily susceptible to frostbites. It is great to take him out to have a walk or exercise around. However, you must always remember to take the pup at the moment you feel the temperature around you drop. It’s best to be outside with him as when you feel that you should come inside, he probably will feel the same.
4. Warm bedding
Just limiting the time your pup spends outside in the day is never enough. In addition to it, you should never let the pup sleep on any kind of cold floor in the winter season. Choosing the suitable bedding is quite important to make sure that the pup will be warm. Warm blankets are an important basis to create a cozy environment. A raised bed will keep the pup’s body from meeting the cold concretes or tiles. In addition, a heated bed will surely keep the old joints from feeling stiff. You should always place the pup’s bed away from the uncarpeted floor, cold tile, or drafts. The best place should be warm, preferably in spots that it has slept in before so that it does not feel unfamiliar.
5. Protect the pup from the heaters
As we humans will do when it becomes too cold to bear, dogs will more often than not seek for a heat source. During the harsh winter and in the house, that usually means that they will try to snuggle too close to the sources of hearing. While we humans have the knowledge of what is safe and what is not, that is not the case for our pups. Thus, there have been so many cases of pups getting burned because they try to get too close to the heating sources. Thus, you should install covers for your baseboard radiator or avoid the space heaters to keep the pup from getting itself burned. This case is especially true for fireplaces so you should install some system for pet proof.
6. Moisturize the pup
Most of us spend too much time worrying about the cold of winter. However, we all forget that there is also one thing that is especially dangerous in these times. Just like what will happen to our human skin, when the weather becomes too cold and dry, your pets’ skins will also be affected. Thus, you should pay attention and help the pup in preventing flaky and dry skin by adding a supplement that is good for coat and skin to the food. You can also utilize coconut oil, as it is, in fact, a great moisturizer that is natural. It can also keep the pup’s coat and skin pretty healthy. You should start applying coconut oil on any part of your pup’s body that you see cracking or dry.
7. Never overfeed in the winter
There have been many cases where the owners mistakenly thought that adding a fat layer on their dogs will help them in surviving the winter. This is not true at all. You should never try to add fat into your dog’s body like an extra layer for winter. It is common knowledge that with the cold weather usually come a bunch of lazy behaviors and as a result, a quite reduced need to take in calories. Thus, it is actually quite essential for you to pay a lot of attention to the pup’s level of activities and then adjust the calories intake for it accordingly. A diet of high-quality foods will surely help keep your pup’s spirit high enough for the harsh winter.
8. Keep the pup hydrated
There are far more dangers lurking in the winter than just the harsh and cold weather. In fact, the cold weather may be one of the easier issues to deal with. For instance, the dehydration of the pup is far more difficult to detect. A lot of people hold the belief that it is only during the summer season that pups can be dehydrated. However, that belief is completely rubbish. In truth, the pup will dehydrate just as fast during the winter season as it would during the summer season. Although the pup can try to eat snow, it is still not a suitable substitute for fresh water in any way. If the pup spends lots of time playing outdoors, you should ensure that there is a water bowl within his reach.
9. Groom the pup
Many people are under the assumption that the longer the fur is, the better it will be for the pup in the winter months. However, that is simply not the case, at all. Disheveled hair is not a good protection for the pup against the harsh weather of the winter season. Thus, your pup will be in need of a well-groomed and clean coat in order to make sure that she is insulated properly. In the case of the pup liking to spend times outside of the warm and cozy house, this becomes even more important. In addition, you should always keep in mind that the pup should be thoroughly dried after bathing and before being allowed to go outside.
10. Never forget to take care of the paws
I am quite sure that there are a lot of us humans developing cracks in our feet whenever winter comes with some harsh weather. Just like this case with us, dogs also can suffer from their paws getting cracks. If the pup has some furry feet, you should totally trim all the hair growing in between the pads to prevent the ice from building up between those pads. The winter salt that is all over the sidewalks of the city is also toxic and can burn the pads of your pup. Thus, you should make sure that there is nothing sticking to the pads after taking the pup on a walk around your neighborhood. If the pup shows discomfort signs walking outdoors on the salted or frozen surface, you should use dog booties.
11. Remove the snow
I am aware that one of the best things to do in the winter season is playing around with the snow. However, it is in fact quite dangerous for your precious pup. When the snow gathered near the fences, it opens up escape routes that are just too hard to resist even for the pups that are well-trained. When you clear your yard from snow, make sure that they are not piled up near the fences so that the pup will not try to climb over. In addition, due to ice and snow usually accumulating on the rooftop, when the temperature rises they can slide off and injure your pup. In the case of you not being able to clear the snow off the roof, you should not let the pup goes near the overhang.
12. Check where the pup plays
We know that there is nothing more fun for a pup than to be able to play outdoors. After all, the dog is simply an adventurous animal. However, as I have emphasized above, there is nothing more dangerous for your pup than the outside world, especially in the winter season. Thus, a great pet owner must always remember to carefully check the place their pup is going to play at. This is especially necessary if it is an unfamiliar area, you need to keep the pup close to you in this case. Due to the pup’s adventurous nature, it can easily venture to unsafe places such as frozen lakes or ponds. After all, they will all be covered by snow, so there is no way to know for sure.
13. Avoid any kind of toxin exposure
I aim mainly to antifreeze when I give you this advice. As we all know, in places with high chances of temperature dropping too low, people usually use antifreeze. It is a harmful mixture of chemicals mainly used in an automotive or internal combustion engine. In spite of its toxicity, the mixture, in fact, has quite a sweet taste. Thus, your pup will try to lick or drink it. With just a small amount ingested, antifreeze is already fatal. The best way to prevent this disaster is just by keeping the pup out of the garage and also off any driveway, any place where it can encounter the mixture. This is also a good advice for young parents, as the young children can also be interested in the antifreeze.
14. Do not leave the pup in the car unattended
This advice is, in fact, applicable in any season, not just winter. It is common knowledge that cars can get quite hot in the summer season. That is also the case for the winter season, as the freezing cold will get into the car through any leak. There are also other risks involved if you left the car running. For example, if you left the car parked in a garage, there is a high chance of carbon monoxide poisoning. Thus, the best option is to just to leave the pup at home whenever you have to go out for an errand.
15. Pay special attention to the seniors
Just like the case with humans, the cold weather of the winter season will aggravate medical conditions that your old pup has already had, arthritis in particular. Thus, you need to have a regimen of exercise for your arthritic pup. However, you must be mindful of surfaces that are slippery. In addition, you should make sure that the pup has an area that is soft and warm to recuperate after exercising. You may also need to add some natural joint supplement to make the joints lubricated, easing the discomfort for the pup.
I wish I’ve read this post sooner. It’s my first time having a puppy and this is his first winter. Your article is really informative and explains things really well. My little one really loves playing in the snow and like us humans, I know there are risks associated with long time exposures in the snow and the cold but I am now learning the specifics. Thank you for this and please keep making such informative articles for dog lovers and dog parents!
I think I’ll have to buy winter clothes for my dogs if this is the case. Your winter dog clothes collection are nice, I’ll check and maybe order very soon. They enjoy playing so much and winter season is fast approaching, they might get frostbites or hypothermia without me noticing. I’ll have to do more research aside from the lists above. Thank you!