How to look after your dog in the winter
While you and your hound may very well embrace the wintry weather, it’s important to make sure your favourite four-legged friend is prepared for the colder climate, too.
Wintertime can be a fun season for doggy outings, providing you go about it the right way. Although your pooch probably enjoys his walks no matter what the time of year, it's our responsibility as dog owners to make sure that they stay safe and warm when winter draws in.
Getting through the winter months can in itself be a challenge when there’s more mud, snow and torrential rain to contend with. Not to mention the darker mornings and shorter evenings.
This time of year doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom. Here are some great tips to help you take good care of your dog, and to make sure they’re getting the exercise they need, come rain or shine throughout the winter.
Plus you can protect them further by doing a pet insurance comparison – here at Go Get it, we make it easy!
How do you take care of a dog in the winter?
When it comes to ‘winter-proofing’ your pooch, the key is to make sure they’re warm, dry, and active no matter what. If these are your guiding principles, you’ll have a happy doggy that’s safely protected from the elements.
Let their coat grow
If you’re usually on top of keeping your dog trimmed and groomed, let their winter coat grow for a change. It can be a little longer to keep them warm but that’s also no excuse to let their fur get matted. So remember to keep on top of brushing and grooming as mud and debris can quickly build up on muddy winter walks.
Keep them clean, warm and dry
You might not realise it with those happy smiling faces after a long walk, but dogs can be particularly susceptible to frostbite and hypothermia during the colder months. As their owner, it’s important that you make sure that after every walk, they’re properly towelled down and dry.
Studies have found that 56 per cent of dog owners exercise their pup less during the winter months. On those freezing days, however, you should change up the way you exercise your pooch so they can still let off some steam.
Bad weather outside can pose potential hazards, so think about some games you can play indoors, or take them swimming.
Buy them a doggy coat
If you have a short-haired dog or a puppy, purchasing a winter coat or jacket isn’t such a bad idea to keep them warm. That way, you can still enjoy walkies, minus the shivering.
Consider their age
Like humans, older dogs are more susceptible to hypothermia and suffering from the cold - particularly if they have problems with their joints.
Cold temperatures can exacerbate pain for an older dog that suffers from arthritis, so try engaging them with some indoor ball games, or taking them to a specialist doggy swimming pool to get them moving at least for a few minutes every day.
If they are noticeably in pain in their joints, take them to the vet to see if there is a natural supplement to help them out.
By using a pet insurance comparison website like Go Get It, we can help you find the right insurance, whatever the age of your pet.
Check for salt and grit on paws
After a snowy or frosty walk, make sure to wipe your dog’s feet, legs and stomach as chances are they’ve got grit from the roads stuck between their paws. Touching their paws can be a sensitive area, so encourage them with tasty rewards and munchies. In time, they’ll get more used to lifting their feet for a clean up.
Adjust their food if necessary
If your dog isn’t quite as active as in the warmer months, then adjust their portion sizes appropriately to avoid them gaining weight and putting a strain on their joints.
Move their bed to a warmer spot in the house
When it’s a little chilly both inside and out, consider moving your dog’s bed to a warmer spot at home. Make sure they’ve got lots of warm, thick blankets on those colder days. Don’t forget to give them extra cuddles to keep them warm!
Should you walk your dog in extreme cold?
Heading out on a particularly freezing winter day is sometimes essential. However, it’s best to be extra vigilant, as these extreme conditions can be quite unpredictable, both for you and your hound.
There are a few things to consider, such as the age, breed and size of your dog and the bottom line is to not let freezing temperatures deter you from exercising them at all.
Your dog depends on you to keep them active and happy, and there are many other ways of keeping them engaged during bitingly cold temperatures.
It’s easy to think that, however, with a canine’s fur coat, they can cope with colder weather. But this isn’t always the case – even if they’re excited at the prospect of going for a walk, make sure your dog is fully prepared for a snowy day out if you must venture out into the extreme cold.
Consider their health, size and breed
Generally speaking, small to medium-sized dogs are at greater risk from suffering frostbite or hypothermia when temperatures dip below zero.
Some dog breeds struggle with cold temperatures, such as Greyhounds and Whippets, and very small breeds can sometimes get antifreeze stuck between their paws when out for a walk, so if that’s the case, keep outings very brief, or opt for some indoor exercise instead.
Naturally, larger breeds such as the Alaskan Malamute, Saint Bernard, Akita and Siberian Husky and Newfoundland are bred to tolerate cold temperatures.
But no two canines are the same. Look out for telltale signs such as shivering and lethargy to better understand if your dog is suffering from the cold.
Vulnerable dogs such as puppies, older hounds or those suffering from health conditions are also particularly sensitive to the cold, as they cannot regulate their body temperature quite as efficiently.
If the temperature has dropped to below freezing, just take them outside to go to the toilet and try to keep them active with games indoors.
Run a pet insurance comparison at Go Get It so you can find the right insurance for your breed, at the right price.
Check the weather forecast before heading out
Extremely cold temperatures can be made worse for dogs if winds are high and dry, so check before you head out and exercise caution. Also, make the most of the sunshine when it’s out. Winter morning sun can provide ideal conditions for a doggy stroll, so make the most of them while you can.
Be fully equipped with the right gear
Even if they’re working up a sweat from excitement when you mention ‘walkies’, you might want to make sure they’re wearing a winter coat, or a pair of dog booties or paw protectors to protect their feet from frostbite.
Do not leave a dog alone outside in extreme weather
When your dog is outside in the extreme cold, keep an eye on them at all times and make sure they’re close by, particularly if visibility is also bad from snow or fog.
Keep walks brief
If you do decide to head out with your doggy in extreme winter temperatures, limit the walks to five or 10 minutes until the weather improves.
Play indoor games and keep their minds active
Sometimes the temperature can be a little too brutal during winter, but there is a whole range of indoor activities to enjoy with your pooch.
You can keep their minds active with some training and obedience exercises, brain games, or what about hydrotherapy, for a total body workout?
Another great idea is a doggy playdate with their best canine friend.
Nowadays, it’s even possible to buy a dog treadmill. It’s not particularly exciting, we know, but it can be a good alternative, particularly for older dogs.
How do you look after a dog in the snow?
Protect your dog’s feet – check for snow beneath their toes
When they come in after a romp in the snow, check their feet to brush off any remaining snow. This can freeze and cause irritation for their footbeds.
Shovel an area for them to go to the toilet
It’s snowy outside in the garden, and your dog needs to dig to go to the toilet. Make things easy for them, and clear an area of snow for your dog to go with ease without getting their feet cold.
Trim their feet fur
Longer fur around their paws can freeze and cause your dog discomfort. Make sure that it’s neatly trimmed.
Organise a walk with a friend or group
If you’re concerned about heading out into the snow alone with your dog, why not join one of your pals, and head out together for a group dog walk?
How do you keep pets safe in the winter?
Extreme weather conditions come with their fair share of safety hazards, and it’s important to remember that certain measures need to be taken to guarantee the safety of your pooch in wintertime.
Avoid frozen lakes, rivers and ponds
In the warmer months, your dog might be quite used to running into their favourite body of water for a good old doggy paddle. Avoid going to your dog’s favourite summer swimming spot in the colder months, as it’s likely to be frozen over. It’s very difficult to gauge how thick the ice will be, and the surface can be deceiving for an excitable dog.
Beware of antifreeze
When the temperatures drop, out comes the antifreeze, particularly when you need to thaw your car windscreens before the morning school run. Unfortunately, antifreeze is tasty for canines, but also highly poisonous. Make sure it’s well out of their reach, and clean up after any spillages.
Familiarise yourself with signs of frostbite and hypothermia
Frostbite occurs when the body pulls blood away from the extremities to the centre of the body for warmth. Ears, tails and paws can become so cold that ice crystals form in the tissues.
You will not immediately know if your dog is suffering from frostbite but you should watch if they’ve come in from a long, wintry walk and they have pale or grey skin.
It can be painful for a doggy as a frostbitten area recovers, and in the worst-case scenario, frostbitten skin will turn black and fall off.
To avoid this from happening, keep dog walks brief and brisk, and make sure they’re wrapped up when it’s dangerously cold.
Similarly, hypothermia poses a threat to many dogs in winter. If they’ve spent too long in the cold or have gotten wet in cold conditions, they will first begin to shiver.
As hypothermia progresses, they might show signs of lethargy and weakness. Eventually, the heart rate and breathing begin to slow – it is life-threatening so contact a vet immediately if you think this is happening to your pup.
Make sure they’re wearing an ID collar
Ensure that your pooch has a collar, or is otherwise microchipped. In the case that they go missing in the heavy snow, someone can easily get a hold of you.
If in doubt, keep them on a lead
If it’s snowing heavily outside, it’s a good idea to keep your dog on a lead, particularly if they have a tendency to run off and go for a sniff. The snow can be quite disorientating, and they might get lost, putting them at risk of frostbite or hypothermia.
Make them visible
When walking your pup in the dark, make sure they can be well seen. There is a whole range of reflective jackets and light up dog collars on the market. Wearing a reflective jacket or carrying a torch is a good idea for you, too!
Don’t leave dogs in the car unattended
You might not be aware that it’s equally as dangerous to leave a dog in a freezing cold car as it is a hot car, so make sure they always accompany you when you park the car somewhere in winter.
Do a pet insurance comparison to find the best deal
Last but certainly not least, you should make sure you’ve got your dog insurance in place to keep your hound safe and healthy, whatever the weather.
We can compare a range of policies to suit all needs and budgets.
Using the UK's only dedicated pet insurance comparison website get a quote for pet insurance today.