I opened the back door to let Ramona and Tucker out this morning, and as soon as Ramona saw the snow (It was as tall as her!), she turned around and high-tailed it back into the living room. Snowy and icy winter weather can be challenging for our pups to handle, but for most of our dogs, going outside at least 3-4 times a day is not an option! How can we make this weather more tolerable (and safe!) for them?
1. Make sure your pup's paws are protected. Dogs' feet are highly susceptible to frostbite. The salt that we use so liberally in the winter can be even more painful and potentially dangerous. I've found the best thing for city dogs who deal with salt and ice on a daily basis are simple, lightweight dog boots. My favorite are PAWZ, the boots that pretty much EVERY dog will tolerate. We're also getting in some great, more durable boots from Ultra Paws this week. If you and/or your dog can't stand the idea of boots, try trimming the excess hair from their footpads and toes. This helps prevent ice balls from forming in between their pads, and makes it easier to get the ice and snow off when you get home. If they don't wear boots, make sure you wash or wipe down their feet after a walk to remove salt! If they injest too much salt, bad stuff could happen. After cleaning their paws, apply a thin coating of Vaseline to keep them from getting cracked and sore.
2. Keep your pup nice and warm. Small dogs or those with little to no hair should have sweaters or jackets for protection against the cold. Some of the most common breeds that will benefit from protective clothing are Chihuahuas, Miniature Pinschers, Whippets, Greyhounds, and even many Pit Bulls and mixes! There are many types of protective clothing, from a simple blanket coat that almost all dogs will be happy with, to fancier hoodies and jackets. Remember, not all dogs will tolerate clothing, so don’t push it – just make an extra effort to keep them out of the cold. Watch your dog for warning signs that it's time to go back inside... shivering, crouching, lethargy, and tucking their tail under for warmth are a few. You might also notice their hair standing on end.. kinda like when we get goosebumps! Dogs CAN get hypothermia... so please be cautious!
3. Monitor their food supply. There are two ways you may need to watch your dog's food supply in the winter: a) If your dog stays inside more during the cold weather, and you're giving him more bones and chews to keep him busy, but less time outside for exercise, you may need to slightly reduce his normal amount of food to keep him nice and trim. b) If your dog enjoys outside winter activities, and spends a lot of time outside during the cold weather, you may think about increasing his amount of food (specifically his protein level) or adding a supplement because he is burning a lot more calories keeping warm out there! In both situations, rely on your own monitoring and use your discretion. I always keep an eye on Ramona's waist... when she looks a little chunky I give her a little less food for a while or let her fast a day a week. If I can see her ribs I give her a bit more food until she's looking good again.
Most dogs really enjoy the snow and as long as proper precautions are taken, there's no reason they shouldn't be out playing in it! Enjoy this winter weather! Maybe Ramona, Tucker, and I will build a snow dog in the park tomorrow...