It’s freezing outside, but having a dog means that even as the mercury drops, you still have to brave the elements. Did you know that dogs have an increased chance of getting lost during the winter months? Or that it’s important to consider your four-legged friend when adjusting the thermostat? We’ve covered all this and more in our guide to surviving the final months of winter with your canine companion.
Schedule a Winter Tune Up
Even though we’ve been enduring the cold for a few months, it’s still worth checking in with your vet (if you haven’t already) to make sure that your dog is well-equipped to deal with all the cold and ice that seem to have settled in for the long haul. Sometimes, a relatively benign issue can flare up as a result of the weather and it’s best to get a head’s up to avoid any unpleasant surprises. Additionally, your vet will be able to counsel you on ways to accommodate your dog’s winter needs according to his breed, something that makes a big difference when you compare a Chihuahua to a Husky.
Don’t Go Leash Free
Dogs are heavily reliant on their sense of smell, not just to explore and discover but to situate themselves as well. When the ground is covered with a thick layer of ice and snow, it can be a lot harder for them to stay on course. If you’re out with your dog in unfamiliar territory, make sure that you keep him securely leashed, even if he’s previously demonstrated an excellent sense of direction. Confusion combined with sub-zero temperatures can be deadly and something that you want to avoid at all costs.
Keep Your House Warm
It’s easy to fall into the routine of lowering the thermostat when you leave for the day, after all, it saves money and provides environmental benefits as well. While it’s great to be mindful of how much energy you’re using, it’s also important to consider that if your dog is home all day, he needs to stay warm too. Find a temperature that isn’t too low and ensure that there are plenty of warm areas for him to nap in so that he’s not forced to lie on cold flooring all day. If you have the option of customizing which rooms get the most heat, focus on the ones he’s likely to spend the most time in (but be sure to provide warm surfaces in the cooler zones as well, just in case he decides to switch things up).
Step Up The Hygiene
Not only do winter walks mean the potential for snow and ice trapped between sensitive paw pads, there’s also an increased chance of picking up various poisons en route. When you return from a brisk stroll, always wipe down your dog’s paws with warm water. Thanks to the increased use of chemical de-icing products and spilled antifreeze, the odds of your dog tracking in poisonous substances is significantly higher in the colder months. Since often, the first thing a dog does when he gets home is licks his paws clean, you want to make sure that he’s not ingesting any potentially harmful substances.
Keep It Short and Sweet
Even though they’re covered in fur, dogs are still susceptible to frostbite and other dangerous weather-related conditions. When it’s too cold for you to be outside, it’s too cold for your dog as well. During extreme weather conditions or instances of especially bitter cold, it’s best to restrict your dog’s outings to quick bathroom breaks and not much more. It can be hard for your canine companion to understand why he’s being cooped up inside but a little excess energy is a lot easier to deal with than painful frostbite.
Never Leave Your Dog Unattended
This one is pretty obvious but can’t be stressed enough. Never, ever leave your dog unattended in the cold. This means no tying him outside while you shop, no leaving him in a parked car, and absolutely no letting him spend hours on end outside. If you’re on the go with your dog, plan accordingly and make sure that all of your stops allow you to bring your dog inside with you. Otherwise, run those errands when you’re on your own. For road trips or extended periods of time spent in the car, consider what your options are when you need to stop so that you’re not caught by surprise. In the same way that a parked car in the summer can become a sweltering sauna, a vehicle turns into an unbearable icebox when it’s cold, which can be fatal to a dog.