I’m writing this during a cold snap after several days of dog walking in sub-zero temperatures. So… I’m reminded of the importance of keeping you and your dog warm and safe during the winter when there are more, or at least different, hazards than in warmer times.
With this in mind, I’m providing this brain dump of things you need to bear in mind as a dog owner during winter. Some of these tips relate to weather, as you might expect. Others relate to seasonal hazards, which might not be so apparent.
As a note, this may well be more beneficial to new dog owners than to old hands. That said, it may well be a useful reminder to anyone.
Table of Contents
- Winter Checklist for Dog Owners
- Related Posts
A Dog’s Winter Checklist for Owners
As a Whippet owner this is a first and foremost consideration for me. Whippets are fair weather dogs, having short, single coats and very little body fat.
Most Whippet owners know that Whippets are heat stealers, always looking for a way to extract heat from a nearby person or by lounging near a source of warmth. Indeed, Whippets love burrowing under bed covers at any time, but particularly when the temperature drops.
But even thicker coated dogs might need cosy dog clothing to help retain heat during the autumn and (especially) winter months.
Perhaps the single best piece of advice regarding temperatures is that if it’s too cold for you to go out walking, it’s too cold for your dog. While we know how important daily dog walks are, be sensible if it’s too cold outside and skip it until the temperature rises.
However, cold temperatures are not the only thing to be concerned about weather-wise during winter. Wet weather, especially when combined with cold snaps, make dog walking far less enjoyable.
A raincoat made specifically for dogs that either includes a fleece lining or one that fits over a cosy dog sweater, will help keep your dog dry and warm.
Dog raincoats will also protect your pooch if you’re out walking in snow. Medium to long haired dogs will be able to avoid snow sticking to their fur, especially under their bellies, where mini snowballs can form.
Regardless of temperature and appropriate warm clothing for you and your dog, winter is also a time when visibility is not quite what it is in the summer.
The nights draw in much earlier (indeed some countries experience total darkness all day round) and weather conditions make it harder to see pedestrians and their dogs.
Choosing high-visibility clothing for you and your dog will make it easier to spot you when out together on walks. This is extremely important for dogs as vehicle drivers might find them hard to spot, especially at night.
If you’ve been out walking your dog and it’s been wet, be sure to provide a good wipe down with a towel. This will of course be more of a requirement if your dog doesn’t have a waterproof jacket. Howver it may be necessary regardless if it’s been particularly rainy on your walk.
Making sure your dog is dry will help it to regulate heat correctly so it doesn’t get cold during wintertime.
Cold temperatures can make your dog’s extremities suffer. The pads on the paws may become sore when walking on frozen ground, and ice cold temperatures are one of the things that make a dog’s nose dry. If soreness on sensitive skin areas becomes a problem, look for canine friendly moisturisers.
Whenever you take your dog out after it’s been snowing, check its paws when you get back home. If you’ve been out for any length of time, it may be that small clumps of snow have compacted and turned into little ice balls between its toes. These can be painful so check for them and remove any you find.
If you have a Whippet like me, you’ll be all too aware of the importance of comfortable and warm bedding. Fleece blankets can be great for pooches with an aversion to cold. Having a small collection of them means you can swap them easily when one needs a clean.
Furthermore, try to position your dog’s bed in a place that’s warm and draught free… but not stuffy and under-ventilated. Ensuring your dog has a cosy place to lie down will help it to stay warm when the mercury drops!
Of course if you’re like me, you’ll possibly find a dog in your bed at any time of day… even if it has a perfectly decent bed of its own!
While fleas might be more of an issue in the warmer seasons, they can still be a problem during winter.
Although it may be cold enough outside for flea populations to dwindle, most of us crank up the heating indoors,
We all like a warm home, and as it turns out so do fleas. So any survivors from the colder temperatures outside can still flourish indoors.
Always make sure you keep your dog’s flea treatments up to date, even if you think you can pull back on it somewhat in winter.
It’s of course important to groom your dog correctly year round and during the wetter winter months you may well need to wash your dog more than at other times of year.
However, if you have a medium to long haired dog and take it for a hair cut once in a while, it’s probably kinder to let it remain long for winter. You certainly wouldn’t want to give your dog a close crop!
For me, this isn’t ever a problem as Whippet fur is short. Then again this is why they suffer from the cold terribly (it’s one of the reasons why Whippets tremble so much after all).
Christmas trees create a range of potential problems for dogs during December, even though many of us would never consider the festive season to be festive without one.
Firstly there are the decorations. Baubles, especially glass ones, pose a real threat to dogs. Smaller baubles may look like fun balls to play with but could end up as a choking hazard. Glass baubles are fragile and break easily and the damage broken glass can do doesn’t bear thinking about.
Many of us adorn our trees with edible decorations, some of which may be foods that are harmful to dogs, such as chocolate. Such dangers potentially lurk under the tree too as presents may contain edible treats your dog finds irresistible.
If the edible decorations aren’t a risk, Christmas tree needles can cause stomach upsets if ingested. They can also irritate the mouth and paws. If you have a Christmas tree, make sure you regularly vacuum anything the tree drops.
Finally, the tree itself may be a hazard. Dogs can get very excited during the holiday period, with lots of new and unfamiliar seasonal sights and smells filling the home. Over excited dogs can get zoomies, bump into the tree and knock it over.
Try to make sure you put your tree into a base that doesn’t allow it to tip easily. Additionally, you might place some kind of guard around the base so your dog can’t get too close.
Christmas trees aren’t the only kind of play that can be harmful to dogs. Festive plants such as poinsettia, holly and mistletoe help to create a sense of holiday cheer. However, they’re toxic and can make dogs very poorly if they eat them.
Finally, during the winter time, some potted plants we normally keep outside need to come inside to protect them from frost. Some of these plants may be poisonous to dogs and so care needs to be taken to keep them out of your dog’s reach.
Find out more about houseplants that are poisonous to dogs.
For many of us, winter is a lovely time of year where we can enjoy crisp clear days and invigorating dog walks.
However, cold temperatures, snow and freezing rain can make dog walking less enjoyable.
The Christmas period too can present potential hazards for dogs so it’s important to take precautions to prevent your dog getting itself into mischief.
Do you have any tips to help dogs stay safe in winter? Please tell me about them in the comment section at the bottom of this page.
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