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Keep Your Pets Healthy and Happy this Winter

Following are timely tips to protect pets in cold weather.

Before, during and after walks and outdoor exercise:

  • Coats and booties can help your dog stay warm. In particular, short-haired or elderly dogs benefit from wearing a coat or sweater. Look for coats or sweaters with high collars or a turtleneck that covers the dog from the base of the tail on top to the belly underneath.
  • Remember to be very careful with sick or older dogs, since they are more sensitive to cold weather. For any dog sensitive to the cold due to age, illness or breed type, take him outdoors only to relieve himself.
  • Puppies do not tolerate the cold as well as adult dogs and may be difficult to housebreak during the winter. If necessary, papertrain your puppy inside if he appears to be sensitive to the weather.
  • Clip the fur between toe pads to reduce the amount of snow that collects between toes.
  • To help protect dry, sensitive paws, try coating them with a bit of cooking spray before walks in very cold weather.
  • During deep snows, shovel out a potty spot for your dog.
  • Upon returning home, wipe snow and ice off your dog’s feet, legs and belly. Little ice cubes can form in the sensitive spaces between the toes and toe-pads. Remove the ice carefully with your fingers since it may cling to the hairs between the paws. Wiping off your dog will remove any salt, antifreeze or other harmful chemicals that she could ingest them when licking her paws.
  • Consider keeping a container of warm water and cloths by the door for use after walks. It is good to rinse the paws before you wipe them dry, because lime rock salt and calcium chloride salt can irritate the foot pads and cause vomiting and diarrhea when licked. Dunking in the water will also dissolve ice and remove mud.
  • Many de-icing and ice-melting products are toxic. Read the labels of any projects you use, and store these products in tight containers.
  • Even brief exposure to sub-zero temperatures can lead to frostbite of the feet, nose or ears. Frost-bitten skin appears red, gray or whitish and may peel off. Prevent frostbite by removing ice and snow from paws and fur right away. If you suspect frostbite, take your pet to a warm place and thaw out frostbitten areas slowly by applying warm, moist towels. Change them frequently. Continue until the affected areas become flushed. Then contact a veterinarian for further care.
  • Do not be tempted to let dogs off leash in snow or ice. Canines often lose their scent in cold weather and can become lost. Dogs also can panic in snow storms and run away. The decreased daylight does not help either. More dogs are reported lost during the winter than any other season, so always keep dogs on leash when outside a fully fenced yard and make sure yours always wears proper identification.

Winter pet care:

  • Brush your dog vigorously and regularly. The air in most houses becomes dry during the colder months, which depletes moisture from dog skin and fur. Brushing improves skin, coat and circulation.
  • A thick-coated dog typically needs grooming in cold weather. The fur can get wet and matted, making it an irritant. Clean fur lofts and holds air in a manner similar to layering clothes, thus helping the animal stay warm.
  • Never shave your dog down to the skin in winter. Leave the coat longer for more warmth. When you bathe your dog, completely dry him before taking him out for a walk.
  • Use fatty acid supplements during the winter, ideally starting several weeks before cold weather sets in, to help skin and coat.
  • If your dog engages in a lot of outdoor activities, increase his food supply to help keep his coat thick and healthy.


Note: Some tips courtesy of Brenda Beck, President of Pets and Animals in Distress in Fort Lauderdale; The Healthy Animal Update newsletter; and other sources.

These tips are courtesy of paw-rescue.org. Find the original link here.


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