Winter is in full swing, but that doesn’t mean your dog doesn’t want to go outside anymore, and you definitely want to get some fresh air too once in awhile. Chances are your pup loves running around in the snow or just likes to be outdoors, but being exposed to the cold temperatures for too long is just as dangerous for your dog as it is for you. With everything that comes with winter and winter weather, you’ll need to make sure you’re prepared to keep your dog healthy and happy all season long.
1. Dress your dog in warm clothes
Granted, not all dogs are the same when it comes to cold weather. A Siberian Husky, for example, is going to do much better in cold, snowy weather than a Chihuahua. However, that’s not to say your furry pup won’t get cold. While this is a little more important for dogs with shorter hair, it doesn’t hurt to invest in a sweater for your dog. No, they’re not just for dressing up your dog for some cute Instagram photos; they actually serve a purpose. If you’re going to be spending a lot of time outside--so not a bathroom break in the backyard--a sweater will help protect your dog against the elements. If they’ll be playing in the snow, be sure to look into waterproof coats and sweaters too.
2. Keep an eye on the paws
Winter for a lot of people means snow and ice, and with snow and ice comes a need for various different chemicals and deicers for sidewalks and roads. These materials can build up in between the pads on the paws, and if they’re ingested, they can poison your dog. You can use a pair of booties to protect their paws from these harsh chemicals. Booties are also great for playing in the snow since snow and ice have the potential to cause damage to your dog’s paws. If booties are off the table, just make sure to wipe your pup’s paws with a warm, wet cloth once they come inside. If they have any wounds on their paws, be sure to treat them immediately, and consider seeking veterinary attention for anything serious.
3. Pet-proof your home
Not all winter readiness involves the cold and outdoors. If you’re using a space heater anywhere in your house, be sure to keep it out of reach of your dog because he could tip it over and burn himself or, even worse, cause a fire. Be careful if you’re using heated pet pads because they also are a burn risk. Just make sure your bud has warm blankets or a raised dog bed to avoid cold winter drafts.
4. Prepare proper outdoor housing
If you’re a dog owner, you probably own a dog house, but is it prepared for the winter? It’s generally not a good idea to leave your dog outdoors during the winter, but if you absolutely must leave your dog outside for a prolonged period of time, make sure he’ll be warm enough in a dog house that’s dry, out of the wind, and raised several inches off the ground. Here’s a few other things your dog house needs to be winter ready:
- Sloped roof
- Insulation - Think cedar shavings or hay with plenty of blankets
- Food and water - Check often to make sure the water doesn’t freeze over and to see if he has enough food
- Waterproof plastic or canvas-covered doorway
Many states have restrictions on how long your dog can be outside or tethered, so check out your state’s rules to see if you’re in compliance.
5. Know the warning signs
You always want to keep an eye on your dog for signs of hypothermia or frostbite. Bring your dog inside immediately if you notice he:
- Is wet or has ice on his body
- Stops moving or moves slowly
- Is shivering or seems weak
- Whines or acts anxious
Once your pup is inside, wrap him in blankets and call your vet. Even dogs bred for cold weather can be susceptible to hypothermia or frostbite, so never take any chances.
When in doubt, it’s always a good idea to just stay inside. If the temperature or the wind chill is cold enough that even you wouldn’t consider going out, it’s best not to take your dog out either. A quick jaunt around the backyard is okay for a little exercise, but overall you should focus on limiting outdoor activity for the winter. When you just have to get out, just make sure you’re dressing up your dog like you would dress up yourself: warmly.