You may be cursing the winter weather while you walk your dog on a mid-December evening, but most dogs love a good romp in the snow, and many hardly seem to notice the temperature has dropped. Some even prefer it – Huskies and Malamutes live for this weather! – and with a few precautions your dog can enjoy the winter weather while keeping safe and healthy.
Your dog may love a long walk in the snow but do his feet? Your dog’s pads need protection from the elements to prevent cracking and irritation. The best protection is a set of winter booties that will keep their feet warm, dry, and safe from chemicals. Of course, some dogs will not tolerate booties (watch this hilarious Youtube video). If booties aren’t an option, apply paw protectant like Vaseline or a wax based product like Musher’s Secret to your dog’s pads and between his pads prior to a walk or other outdoor playtime. This won’t keep his feet from getting cold but will protect them from rough ice and snow and salt irritation. After the walk make sure to rinse or wipe your dog’s feet to remove salt residue so he doesn’t lick it off. On your own driveway make sure to use a pet safe ice melt, but be aware your neighbors and township likely will not.
It is also important to make sure your dog is staying warm enough. Keep in mind that if you’re cold your dog likely is too. Small dogs like Yorkies and Malteses have trouble keeping warm and so do dogs without thick coats to protect them like Coonhounds and Weimareiners. Dogs who are unsuited to cold weather will be happy to have a cozy sweater or jacket to wear in the winter.
Dogs with a thick coat or long hair should not be shaved during the winter, because their fur is important to insulate them through cold weather. Trimming long hair to a reasonable length, though, can reduce the accumulation of snow balls that form in their coats and cause discomfort (and a wet living room). Regular grooming appointments and daily brushings are still important for thick coated dogs because clumped matted hair can actually make them colder and can lead to skin injury and irritation.
It is important to make sure your dog is still getting regular exercise through the winter to keep him healthy and happy, so these cold weather health tips will allow you and your dog to get outside and get moving while staying comfortable and safe.