By Karen Sturtevant, Special to Pet Naturals
Winter in Vermont means snow days, bone-chilling wind gusts and sub-zero temperatures. As pet owners, our priority is keeping our furry companions safe––in all weather, winter included. My little rescue dog, MommaChi is a Southern belle and frigid temperatures are not high on her happy list. Being as this was our first winter together, I sought to prepare us both for the frigid months ahead.
Coats aren’t just furry fashion, they serve a purpose. My dog wears a stylish, yet practical, winter coat (complete with faux fur and high collar) when she ventures out. Before the snow flies, have your dog get accustomed to wearing cold-weather clothing so putting it on becomes routine. Choose a coat that fits properly and covers the tummy. Shorthaired dogs with little undercoat will feel the effects of cold more quickly than longer-haired pups. A snug, not too-tight coat will help.
A neighbor of mine takes her Chihuahua for several short walks each day, rain or shine. In the winter, you will see this lionhearted dog expertly maneuvering the icy sidewalks in her tiny pink booties. Extended exposure to cold can lead to tissue damage, tender paws being especially vulnerable. Weather-resistant booties protect sensitive pads from chemicals, salt and icy edges. Some dogs tolerate this bootie invasion of their feet, others won’t have it. Mine would fall in the latter category. Footwear is not for her. We needed an alternative.
Who doesn’t like a good foot rub? Dogs, too, enjoy foot rubs, especially if it includes an application of paw protection. Talk to your veterinarian or fellow dog owners for recommendations. Your choice should be one that is made of natural ingredients, is breathable and offers a solid layer of protection. A good natural wax will protect your dog’s paws and pads from cuts, abrasions, and ice buildup. This same wax can be used in warmer months to prevent burns from walking on hot asphalt or sand. With or without wax, it’s worth getting into the habit of inspecting their tender paws for cuts and abrasions after being outdoors.
Like people, dogs can suffer from hypothermia and frostbite. Their extremities (ear tips, paws, tip of tail) are most susceptible to the cold. Seniors, puppies, those with arthritis, chronic diseases and pregnant females are more vulnerable in cold weather as they have a more difficult time regulating their body heat. A Great Pyrenees is more likely to relish and roll in the snowy landscape more than a stout and stubborn English bulldog. Dogs lose most of their body heat through their foot pads, ears, and respiration. Limit outside time to very short walks, jaunts around the yard and bathroom breaks.
Increase Protein and fat intake
Increase the amount of protein and fat, either in diet or supplements like our Daily Multi during cold months. Dogs tend to burn more energy in the winter and will benefit from the added nutrients. Their coat and skin will also get a health boost. Of course, you’ll want to check with your veterinarian before making any changes to your pup’s diet.
Have a dedicated towel ready for wiping off snow and ice from your dog’s coat, legs, head, and paws after outside time. Winter roads are continually being treated with deicers, which can lodge in between hairy toes. Rinse paws with warm water to rid of any foreign materials hiding in their paws. Rinsing will remove the dog’s urge to lick and potentially cause harm by swallowing these chemicals. Treat them with an extra thick bed and soft blanket and they’ll be snug and cozy.
Identification tags are often the first line of defense for return if your dog was to get lost. Having updated ID tags (name, phone, microchip number) is extra important in the winter as snow and ice can mask the scent that dogs recognize in order to find their way home. Dogs can easily become confused and wander. Microchips and GPS trackers have been credited with returning countless dogs to their owners. Make sure harnesses and collars are secure with current information.
Vermonters are a hardy lot, not too much slows us, including harsh winters. With some planning, our four-legged friends can enjoy each season right beside us, where they belong. Make it a season to rejoice in with a little preparation and a lot of warm and welcoming doggie snuggles.