Winter Health & Safety Tips for Dog Owners

Posted: January 08, 2019 by Matthew Hillier

We take particular precautions when the weather turns cold and the days grow short. We wear coats, boots, mittens, and bring additional layers with us if we think the weather will become even colder. We do the same for our children when they head off to school as well. After all, no one wants their child to be freezing cold on the playground, right?

Many dog owners live with the misconception that because their pets have a coat of fur, they can tolerate the cold better than us humans. This isn’t necessarily the case! Like us, these fur-coated creatures are used to the warmth of indoor shelter and cold weather can be as hard on them as it is on us. Whatever your viewpoint on winter, one thing remains certain: If it’s too cold outside for you then it’s probably too cold for your pets! 

Read our five winter health and safety tips to help prevent cold weather dangers from affecting your pet’s health.

1. Watch the Temperature: It’s always a good idea to keep an eye on what the temperature is going to be on a certain day — not just the highs and lows but also the hour-by-hour temperature. When you know what the temperature is going to do hourly, you can better plan your pet’s walks and bathroom breaks for the warmest, sunniest parts of the day. Always keep your dog inside whenever temperatures hover around freezing!

  • Pets can get frostbite and hypothermia, too. You can prevent those conditions by taking advantage of the warmest parts of the day for longer walks. Never leave a dog outside unattended, and consider doggie booties for extremely cold weather.

2. Outdoor Safety: Lots of chemicals like chemical snowmelt, anti-freeze, etc. turn up during the wintertime. Make sure your pet stays as far away from these chemicals as possible.

  • When your dog comes in from outside, wipe off his legs, paws, and belly. Otherwise, he could ingest salt, antifreeze or other potentially dangerous chemicals while licking himself dry.
  • Keep dogs away from the garage as much as possible to avoid any unknown substance spills.

3. Always Use a Leash: It’s highly recommended that you keep a leash on your pets during winter. Dogs can lose their scent and easily become lost. A leash can prevent them from lapping up snowmelt, and it can also prevent them from wandering onto dangerously frozen bodies of water.

  • Why dangerous? There’s always a chance that your pet’s weight could break the ice, sending your dog plunging into freezing liquid. But there’s also the chance of your pet slipping on ice and sustaining an injury.
  • Make sure your dog always wears an ID tag. Winter is the most common time for dogs to become lost.

4. Don’t Forget Hygiene: Grooming is just as essential in winter as it is in the summertime. Your dog’s  hair may be longer, which increases the likelihood of tangles. Clean, untangled hair is of the utmost importance because it does the best job of insulating an animal through the coldest months of the year. Also, always make sure your dog is completely dry before coming in from the outdoors. You can always groom at home if you have the right tools. But no matter where the winter dog grooming takes place, it’s vital that you do it!

  • Never shave your dog in the winter. If you own a short-haired breed, consider doggie clothes to cover him from the base of the tail to the belly.
  • After bathing your dog in the wintertime, it’s extremely important be sure that you completely dry your dog before letting it go outside.

5. Food and Drink: A poor diet mixed with cold weather can lead to severe dry, itchy skin, both for you and your pets. Think about hydration, too. When we think about water and hydration, we tend to think about the hot summer months. But your pet needs plenty of water in winter, too, though it’s not always as apparent. Make sure your pet always has a full water bowl to access, both indoors and outdoors. If you keep a water bowl outside, consider getting a heated doggie bowl to avoid frozen water.

  • Ask your vet about adding a supplement to your dog’s food if you notice dry skin. Fish oils and coconut oils can sometimes help keep a dog’s skin healthier and clean through the harsh winter months.
  • Active dogs need more food and water in the winter. Increased protein will give your dog and his fur the best winter conditioning.

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