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Winter Dog Care Tips From A Peterborough, ON Veterinarian

February 15, 2024

We’re officially in winter now. We know, many of you probably have divided opinions on the cold. Some enjoy winter activities like sledding, skiing, or snowmobiling. Others hate it, and may even flee south to escape it. Of course, changes in the weather affect our canine companions as well. In this article from your Peterborough, ON animal clinic, a local veterinarian offers some tips on caring for your dog in winter.

Adjust Your Dog’s Diet For Winter

You may need to adjust Fido’s menu a bit. Some dogs will burn extra calories in the cold, just keeping warm. While you’re adjusting their diet, you might want to consider some seasonal treats. Check out our article on Fall Dog Treats for some ideas that can transition well into winter. These treats can be a great way to reward your pup during cold-weather training or after a chilly walk.

We would recommend checking with your vet if any of the following apply to your canine buddy:

  • Thin Fur
  • Senior
  • Puppy
  • Nursing mama
  • Working dog

And while our canine pals should always live indoors, some pups do spend more time outside than others. If Fido is outside a lot, he will also need extra food.

Winter Grooming For Dogs

Did you know that brushing and bathing Fido can help keep him warm? Dust, dead fur, and dander can all interfere with the insulating qualities of your dog’s fur. Therefore, keeping your pooch’s coat in good condition can help keep him comfortable. (In summer, this also helps your dog stay cool.) Ask your Peterborough, ON veterinary clinic for grooming tips.

Let Your Dog Play In The Snow If He Wants … 

As it turns out, our canine pals are just as divided on the topic of snow as people are. Some pups absolutely hate the cold. Others love rolling and playing in the snow.  

If you have a snow dog, like a husky or a Malamute, you may have a hard time getting Fido to come in from the cold! (This makes for some really cute videos.) Many of these fluffy dogs love rolling and playing in the snow. Let your pup’s opinion factor in. If your furry pal loves the cold, go ahead and let him play! Just keep a close eye on him, and don’t leave him outdoors too long. 

… But Don’t Leave Your Dog In The Cold 

One trend that we are thrilled to see is a rise in laws that make it illegal to leave dogs outside in the cold. While specifics may vary by region, a general rule of thumb would be that Fido should never be outdoors longer than a half hour in cold temperatures.

If your pet has a doghouse, it should be well-insulated, with the opening facing away from prevailing winds. However, doghouse or no doghouse, our canine pals are part of the family, and should live indoors.

Keep Your Dog Warm In Cold Weather

Fido may be wearing a fur coat, but that isn’t enough to keep him warm. Of course, some dogs need more help here than others. 

One thing we can recommend universally is a good, comfy bed. This will protect Fido from chilly floors, and also cushion his bones and joints. Orthopedic beds are great options for large dogs and seniors, because of the extra support they offer. Of course, there’s no rule that says Fido should only have one bed. If you have enough room, get a few different ones. It’s good to have choices!

Your dog may also appreciate a thermal bed. A heating pad is another option, though as with any heating appliance, you’ll need to err on the side of caution and take steps to reduce fire risks. Pet bed warmers and self-heating beds are your best bets.

Pups with thin fur are an entirely different story. If you have a Chihuahua, you may find it hard to coax your pooch out the door when it’s time for a walk. If your canine companion has thin fur, then you’ll want to get him a jacket or sweater to wear outdoors. Make sure that it fits him well, and doesn’t restrict his vision or movement. Avoid things with small parts, such as buttons, in case your canine pal tries to eat his outfit. It’s also best to avoid things with zippers, as they could cut your pet’s fur. 

Protect Your Dog’s Paws In Winter

Fido’s feet can really take a beating in winter. Snow, salt, ice, sand, and chemical deicers can all hurt your dog’s sensitive paw pads. Consider buying or making Fido little booties to wear. Of course, not all pooches will go for this. If your pup doesn’t like wearing shoes, use paw balm or paw wax to protect his furry feet. You can buy these, but you can also make them. In fact, the AKC offers a simple recipe on their site. That particular version calls for using two tablespoons of olive, sunflower, or sweet almond oil, two tablespoons of coconut oil, one tablespoon of shea butter, and four teaspoons of beeswax. Melt everything together in a small pot, stirring continually. Then, just pour the mix into tubes or tins. You can buy empty tubes, but you can also use a clean metal candy tin, such as the kind you get breath mints in.

Remember to keep your four-legged pal’s claws trimmed: long nails can make it harder for dogs to get traction on slippery ice. We also recommend choosing pet-safe deicing products.

If your furry pal has toe fur tufts, you’ll want to trim those back as well. They can collect ice balls. Not only are those very uncomfortable for Fido, they can also lead to slips and strains, as they may change the angle of your pet’s toes against the ground. Plus, they can interfere with traction.

We would also advise cleaning your pet’s feet. This is particularly important if you walk your canine pal in an urban area. City sidewalks can be coated with all sorts of harmful substances, from salt to chemical de-icers to gasoline … the list goes on. One easy way to stay on top of this would be to keep pet wipes and/or a spray bottle full of water and some rags near the door. Teach Fido that he’ll get a yummy treat for letting you wipe his paws down. You may even be able to teach your dog to wipe his feet on a mat!

Booties can also help, though not all dogs will go for them. Don’t force your pet to wear them, unless of course there is a medical reason for it.

Last but not least, use a pet-safe de-icing product. You can get these at pet stores. Many hardware stores also carry them.

Take Safety Precautions For Winter Dog Walks

It gets dark early in winter, so you may be walking your pup after dark quite a bit. Be extra vigilant when taking Fido out at night. Stay in safe, well-lit areas. You may also want to get a leash with a flashlight attached. Slips and falls are another concern. Be sure to wear shoes or boots with good tread. It’s also important to pay attention to the terrain. Snow can hide potential hazards, like broken glass or even holes. Last but not least, avoid frozen bodies of water. Ask your Peterborough, ON veterinarians for more information.

Conclusion: Winter dog care is all about common sense and a bit of extra effort. Keep it simple: keep Fido clean, protect his paws, put a jacket on him if necessary, and make sure he’s warm and comfy indoors. Your pup will be the happiest furry snowball on the block, and you’ll get to enjoy winter with your best friend by your side. 

Stay warm, stay cozy, and keep those tails wagging!

Do you have questions about your pet’s health or care? Contact us at Peterborough West Animal Hospital, your Peterborough, ON animal clinic, anytime! For information on routine care to keep your pet healthy year-round, check out our Veterinary Wellness & Pet Vaccinations services.