What To Know About Winter & Your Dog

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by Mary Grace Mauney

Georgia sure has been chilly lately, and even our furry friends are feeling it! While some dogs are cut out for the cold, such as huskies and Malamutes, many breeds, such as toys and greyhounds, are very vulnerable to winter weather. Whatever their breed, don’t trim their coat; they need all the extra hair they can get right now! The exception is the hair around the paw pads, which should be kept well-trimmed so that ice and snow won’t catch in it and build up. Avoid bathing the dog if possible, but if they require a bath, do it indoors, as quickly as possible, and with warmer water than usual.

If your outdoor dog is a breed that can tolerate the cold, be sure to still give it a good shelter. A dog house should have a sloping roof and be well-insulated; put down some fresh straw and bedding too. Be sure to bring them in if it gets too cold for too long, or if the dog starts to shiver, as that can be a sign of hypothermia. Don’t make the dog house too big, as a smaller space will keep heat better, and if safe/possible, install a heater of some sort within the dog house, or at least give them a hot water bottle. For crate dogs, put drywall and plywood up around the walls of their crate, making a sort of insulated house, and then put extra blankets inside. Throwing a blanket over the entrance of the crate will also help keep the heat in. If your dog sleeps in a dog bed, take it up off the floor, where it can be drafty. If your dog is older or arthritic, consider a special heated dog bed. Arthitis can be made worse by the cold, so talk to your vet about extra treatments for it. Make sure that the water dishes of outdoor dogs don’t get frozen over; water warming devices are available in pet stores for exactly this purpose! Outdoor dogs will also require more food in the winter; how much depends on the breed and its dog house conditions, so be sure to ask your vet!

Some people think that dog clothes are silly (we here at Mister Migs obviously disagree) but in weather life this, they’re practical and even downright smart! Doggie sweaters, booties, and rain slickers can all keep your pet warm on walks, preventing them from falling ill due to damp and cold. Better to look a little silly (or stylish, if you’re wearing a Migrubbie!) than to run up a vet bill! Booties are important because the salt and chemicals used to remove snow and ice from pavement can irritate a dog’s paws. If your dog won’t wear the booties, be sure to clean their paws off with a warm moist towel after every walk! Watch out for anti-freeze too, which tastes good to dogs, and watch the tips of your dog’s ears and tail. If the ear/tail tips feel cold, look red or white or gray, and/or are dry and hard, bundle your dog’s extremities up in blankets and take them to the vet immediately---you may have a case of frostbite on your hands!

We hope this helps to keep your dog warm, dry, healthy, and happy! Have a safe winter!