How to keep your dog warm this winter
There's no mistaking that winter chill in the air, and dogs feel it too. If they're exposed to too much cold weather, dogs quickly become uncomfortable, and they're also susceptible to hypothermia and frostbite. Here are some precautions you may need to take over winter.
Unless you keep exercising your dog over winter, he could quickly start piling on the pounds. So stick to your exercise routine in the colder months. But remember to exercise gently for the first five minutes- dogs need to warm up their muscles too.
Older bones really do feel the cold. If your dog has even mild arthritis, joint pain and stiffness generally worsens over winter. To help manage his old bones, keep him warm at home, take him for gentle walks, and visit your vet regularly.
Fleas in winter
You'd think over winter fleas would have the courtesy to give you break. No chance. Though they're harder to find, they're still around. One reason fleas often escape the eye over winter is because they're in the cocoon stage of their life cycle. So it's important to continue treating your dog for fleas right through winter to help prevent an outbreak when the weather warms.
Obviously some breeds with lush coats such as Huskies and Malamutes can cope with very cold weather much more easily than breeds with little or no fur. For breeds such as greyhounds, miniature pinschers, Chihuahuas and whippets, get your pooch a doggie jacket for when you're outdoors. To make sure a doggie jacket fits your pet correctly, measure your dog's size around the neck, across the shoulders, and around the chest. Not all dogs will tolerate wearing a doggie jacket. There's no need to force the issue; simply keep them out of the cold for long stretches.
In very cold weather you should supervise your dog when he's outside. If they spend too much time romping around a cold garden their ears, tail and paws are susceptible to frostbite. If your dog must live outdoors, and you live in a part of Australia prone to cold weather, consider providing a heated dog bed. Also ensure your dog's shelter is dry and draft-free. In winter beware of fireplaces both inside and outside your home. Never leave a fire burning unattended with a pet nearby. Also ensure you use a safety screen to keep your pet safe from soot, flames and embers.
Paws for thoughts
In cold weather it's prudent to pay your dog's paws a little extra attention. Your dog's paws are susceptible to frostbite, and if there's snow on the ground it can disguise dangerous objects that can harm their paws. So after he returns from being outside, check your dog's feet for cuts or abrasions. Also wipe away any frost or snow. Maintain your dog's paws in winter by trimming any excess fur in between his toes (if he's a long-haired breed). If your dog lets you, consider fitting him with booties to protect his feet. If you notice cold weather is cracking and drying-out the pads on your dog's feet, consult your veterinarian about an appropriate moisturiser (never use a moisturiser made for humans or you could harm your dog's paws rather than help them).
If a dog is left outdoors in very cold weather, hypothermia can develop. This is when a dog's body temperature falls below normal due to the cold. Mild hypothermia makes dogs weak and inactive, and they can't stop shivering. As hypothermia gets worse they become unresponsive, and their breathing and heart-rate slow. If you notice any of these symptoms, get your dog into a warm place immediately, and take him to the vet. To help keep your dog warm during the journey, use a hot water bottle wrapped in a towel.
To help your dog cope with the colder weather, follow these simple tips and you'll keep them happy and healthy throughout winter.
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