Winter is approaching and the change in weather means changes for our furry friends as well. While your dogs may love to play in the snow, keeping them safe during the winter months is important. Your pet can suffer from decreased humidity, frigid temperatures, and other outdoor conditions during this time. Consider these general tips to make sure your pet remains comfortable on those icy days.
Even dogs aren’t immune to flaky skin
A big change happens every time we go in and out of our homes during the winter. In areas such as Lake Tahoe or the Sierra Nevada with snow or subzero temperatures, the body senses the differences between the toasty, dry inside temperatures and the frosty outdoors. When dogs go outside, this change of humidity and temperature can wreak havoc on their skin. Underneath their fur, flaky, itchy skin can persist. If left unattended, a dog can scratch too much and potentially open up a wound that can lead to infection. If possible keep your home well humidified, or at the very least run a humidifier in the rooms where your dog spends most of its time. As soon as your pets enter your home, dry them off and clean out their paws and foot pads. Snow, slush, and other debris can find their way in and irritate the skin.
A dog’s fur coat is their natural protection
During the summer, some dog owners like to keep their dog’s fur very short so the pet is more comfortable. In the winter you should take the opposite approach. Your dog’s fur coat is its natural protection against the elements. You wouldn’t walk outside on a 25-degree day without anything on your body. The same logic should apply to your dog. In snowy area owners of long-haired dogs should keep their hair somewhat trimmed so icicles, as well as salt deposits and other ice removing chemicals, don’t get trapped against the pet’s skin. However, you should leave enough hair so the skin is covered with fur. For short-haired dogs, consider having them wear a coat or sweater. Many pet stores and online retailers have a wide selection of winter wear for your dog in addition to footwear that protects against ice-melting chemicals.
Defending against salt and other deicing chemicals
Humans protect our feet every time they step outside. Broken glass and other debris on the street usually won’t penetrate our shoes. For dogs in the winter, it is a different story. On top of all of the normal debris found outdoors, deicing salt in certain areas can have an extra irritating effect on your dog’s paws. During long walks, bring a towel to periodically wipe their paws and remove any lodged crystals. This helps reduce foot and skin irritation. You can tell when your dog feels discomfort from salt or other deicing chemicals. They will walk strangely with an abnormal cadence. Consider taking these precautions to help improve your dog’s comfort level before you step outside:
- Rub petroleum jelly into your dog’s foot pads as a barrier of protection.
- Put footwear or booties on your dog’s paws.
- Use a dog-friendly ice-melting solution if your dog has ice lodged in its paws.
More cold weather care for your dog
In the winter dogs spend more energy keeping themselves warm, just like humans. Depending on your pet’s breed, you can feed them more than you would during the other times of the year. This is especially important if they spend extended time outside. The additional exertion for warmth means they are burning more calories.
If you are traveling to snowy vacation spots never leave your dog in a car. Similar to the summertime where your car becomes a furnace, a vehicle traps frigid air in the winter. The inside temperature can very quickly become dangerously cold. Along the same line, never leave your dog outside for extended periods. A good rule to follow is that if it’s too cold for you, the same is true for your dog. This is true even if your dog can take shelter on a patio or inside a doghouse. Keep them indoors if the temperature gets too cold.
Finally, don’t bathe your pets as frequently in the winter as you do in the summer. Each time you give your dog a bath, you remove essential oils from their skin. Special moisturizing shampoos and body washes are available from your vet and should be used during the winter for a clean, itch-free coat.
Call Reed Animal Hospital with any questions at 408-369-1788.