During the winter season, many dogs feel the cold as much as their owners do, especially short haired dogs that are not used to being out in the cold. Keeping your dog warm through the winter months is important to maintaining top health, and it won't take you much extra effort to ensure winter coziness for your canine pal.
Understand your breed's particular susceptibility. Some dog breeds are more prone to the cold than others, while some breeds adapt extremely well to the cold: Dogs that are great in the cold include Alaskan Malamutes, Siberian Huskies and Chow Chows. Dogs that find it harder include Dobermans, toy dogs, low hair or hairless dogs, and Greyhounds. Any shaven or excessively clipped dog will fall into this category as well because the thick winter coat is a dog's insulation.
Provide appropriate shelter. It is optimal if your dog can remain indoors throughout winter, going outside for exercise and bathroom breaks only. This will ensure that your dog doesn't get cold while you're out or asleep. Young puppies should not be left outside as they don't have the ability of older dogs to keep themselves warm outside.
· If you have an outside dog, ensure that he has access to a shelter and bedding inside the shelter. Fresh straw and pine shavings provide a suitable layer of insulation against the cold of the ground for an outside shelter; be sure to change it regularly.
· An outdoor dog shelter should have a sloped roof, insulation and heating, especially for very cold climate locations. For rainy winters, ensure that the entrance way is protected so that rain cannot get into the shelter.
· Bring all outdoor dogs inside if the cold spell becomes exceptionally cold and long; even the barn is warmer than an outdoor dog shelter.
Ensure that the bedding is warm and well placed. Bedding is an important part of keeping a dog warm through winter. If your dog sleeps on the ground or near drafts, place the bed up off the floor. A custom-made bed with cushioned insert, blankets, and old clothing make good, warm bedding.
· For old and arthritic dogs, consider using a heated dog bed.
· Clean and change bedding regularly to reduce fleas, germs, and mess.
Use canine clothing options for particular dogs and situations. Canine clothing can help to keep your dog warm through winter, especially for small or toy dogs, dogs without long hair, and old or sick dogs. One of the key signs of a cold dog is shivering, just like humans. Dog jackets, snuggies, and sweaters can be purchased or made (knit, sew, crochet, or quilt) for any sized dog. For wetter winters, you might like to attach a rainproof layer over the top but make sure that it is breathable.
Groom your dog well. Avoid trimming, shaving or cutting your dog's hair because a dog's full weight coat is his source of warmth during winter. It is important to maintain a good grooming regime through winter too, as matted hair is less efficient at keeping out the snow and cold rain, and does not insulate the dog as well.
· Only bathe indoors and make sure your dog is completely dried before letting him outside.
· Keep the hair around paw pads well trimmed. This will help prevent ice and snow balling up between footpads. After walks outside, check paw pads for cracks, cuts, and any foreign debris.
· If your dog won't wear dog booties, be sure to clean off the salt and snow removal chemicals after every walk; the chemicals can be toxic and the salt will become an irritant.
Take shorter walks when the weather is severely cold. Don't try to take your dog on the same length walks as during warmer weather. A shorter walk can still accomplish enough exercise and relief breaks without causing your dog (and you) to become too cold.
· Even if you are indoors, keep exercising. Play indoor games with your dog, such as fetch, tug-of-war, hiding toys, and if it's possible to let them run around inside, then do so. Run them up and down the stairs for agility practice. Keep in mind that if your dog has some joint or hip problems they may not be able to run, so just let them walk up and down the stairs.
· Always keep your dog on a leash when walking in winter.
Avoid overfeeding your dog. While it is important to eat regularly and well during colder months, in order to keep up energy and warmth, with an indoor dog there is no need to increase the food amounts. Doing so can risk creating an overweight dog.
· More food for a dog is only justifiable for dogs living outdoors all of the time and for dogs who are especially active during the winter months. Talk to your vet about your dog's particular energy needs.
· Be sure that your dog has constant access to clean, unfrozen water, indoors and outdoors. Heated bowls can be purchased for use outside.
Guard against canine winter illnesses. As with humans, dogs can fall ill during the colder months especially when cold or as a result of winter conditions, with respiratory infections in damp climates, frostbite, and consumption of toxic substances being some of the principal concerns.
· Keep your dog dry and warm. This will help to guard against respiratory infections, such as kennel cough .If your dog gets a respiratory infection, seek veterinary attention immediately.
· Frostbite can be a problem for some dogs, especially hairless varieties. Check the ear tips and tail tips in particular – if they look and feel cold, appear white, red or gray, and/or are dry and hard, then frostbite may have occurred. If you suspect frostbite, wrap your dog's extremities in blankets or towels to warm them gradually and see the vet immediately.
· Keep winter-time toxic items away from dogs. Anti-freeze tastes unusually sweet to dogs and they will lick it if they can access it. If your dog does ingest it, see a vet immediately as treatment needs to be given within hours to save your dog's life. Another toxic problem during winter is rat bait, used in greater amounts due to everyone living in close proximity over winter. Keep all toxic items well out of the reach of dogs and other pets and clean up any spills immediately.
· Your dog's arthritis and osteoarthritis can be exacerbated by cold weather. Talk to your vet about medication, treatment options, and ways to keep your arthritic dog fit and warm through winter.