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Cold Weather Tips for Dogs

Winter Solstice was only days ago, and we’re now heading into some of the coldest months of the whole year.  The days are getting lighter again, but Canadians can look forward to a lot more ice, snow, and wind before the warmer days of spring.  Is your pooch prepared for winter?  Here are some winter dog care tips to keep your dog warm and safe through Canada’s harsh winter season.

·    Make sure your dog is on his leash at all times when you are out together.  This is one of the most important winter dog walking tips we can give.  A dog which gets off a leash can slide on ice and trip and fall.  Snow also poses navigation hazards for an unleashed dog.  Snow, particularly while it is falling, can obscure scents in the environment, which makes it very hard for a dog to know which way he is going.  A dog which runs off in a snowstorm may be unable to find his way home and may become lost.

·    During the winter months, especially in urban and suburban areas, it is common for chemicals to contaminate snow and ice.  Antifreeze and driveway salts can easily find their way onto your dog’s paws and stomach when he is out in the snow.  If he licks his paws, he may ingest these harmful chemicals.  A good preventative measure is a winter coat for dogs and dog snow boots.  If your dog is unprotected outside, be sure to wipe down paws and stomach when he gets indoors to remove these chemicals.

·    For your own antifreeze, consider using a product with propylene glycol instead of ethylene glycol.  This is a less hazardous choice.  If any antifreeze spills on your driveway, make sure to rinse it off. 

·    Check your dog’s paw pads regularly to ensure that they are not bleeding.  Snow and ice can cause paw pads to be easily injured.  Boots may help to keep paw pads protected and safe.  If your pet has particularly sensitive paws, it can be a very good idea to take extra measures to keep snow and ice away from them.  You might also consider using a carrier for a smaller dog.  A carrier will protect him from the wind and precipitation and will also prevent him from having to walk on cold ground.

·    Don’t shave long-haired dogs in the winter.  Their coats provide natural insulation from the weather.  Give your dog extra protein and extra food in general during the winter.  This helps to thicken the fur and provide the additional energy needed to weather the cold.  If you have a short-haired dog, it is important to make sure that she stays warm.  Consider buying her a dog coat to provide warmth.  A high collar can help to protect the neck.

·    Be wary about taking very young or old dogs outdoors during the winter.  Puppies do not do well with cold weather, and neither do very old dogs.  Dogs which are ill or injured may also not do well outdoors, so only take these dogs outdoors when they need to go out.  No dog should be left inside a vehicle during winter.  Vehicles hold the chill inside, and it can be colder inside your car than you think. 

·    Make sure that your dog has a warm place to sleep.  Some dogs need heated dog beds, though most do not, even in the winter.  If your dog is old or injured however, a heated bed may be ideal.  Heated beds do come with some drawbacks and inconveniences.  Read more about how to choose the perfect dog bed for your pet here

Outfitting your pet with a snow coat and snow boots can help you to prevent a lot of health hazards during the winter.  Not only will your pet be warmer and drier and thus more comfortable, but boots and a coat will also protect him from antifreeze, salts, and other chemicals.  Take extra care when you take your dog out on winter walks, and always check to make sure that he is warm, dry, and clean when he gets in.

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