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Keeping your dog safe during winter

When winter hits it's important to make sure your dog is well prepared to ensure they stay safe and well throughout the cold weather. Read on to discover top vet advice on how to keep your dog safe during winter.

Breed

Depending on the breed of dog, some of our canines can be particularly ill-equipped to deal with the winter weather. While Siberian Huskies, Bernese Mountain Dogs and Samoyeds may be in their absolute element frolicking in the snow, breeds such as the Chihuahua, Chinese Crested Dog and Whippet are likely to struggle.

If your dog has short fur or a low body fat percentage, they will probably need a helping hand. To prevent them from getting cold, make sure the house is kept nice and warm (although not to the point where they are panting or uncomfortable). A fleecy, padded bed is a good idea, and older dogs may benefit from heated bedding.

Braving the outdoors

When outdoors, keep your dog’s skin protected with canine coats and, if it has snowed, doggy boots. Clothes should be loose fitting enough that they allow for normal mobility. Water-proof clothing is best for rainy and snowy days. Some clothes have fluorescent lining and even lights; a great idea for those dark winter evenings. After coming in from the outdoors, be sure to prevent their body temperature from dipping by drying them off with a towel and removing any caked-on snow from between their toes and belly. Some dogs will tolerate a hairdryer set on a low heat, while others may be happier drying off in front of the fire or radiator (at a safe distance!).

If you walk your dog in an area where salt/ grit may have been used to prevent ice on the roads or pavements, ensure this is wiped off your dog’s paws as it can cause burns.

Older dogs

It is a well-known fact that dogs who suffer from arthritis or stiff joints will find winter weather exceptionally challenging. Make sure they are receiving any pain relief and anti-inflammatories that they have been prescribed and try not to miss a dose of their joint-protective supplements. They may benefit from shorter walks and you could even consider exercising them in other ways such as in heated hydrotherapy pools.

Another thing to consider in our older pooches, is whether or not they are receiving enough calories in their food. Keeping warm in cold weather can burn more calories than you may think, and some dogs will lose condition during the winter. Weigh them every few weeks and ask your vet to check their body condition score. If a little bit of weight gain is needed, speak to your vet about the best food to maintain health in older dogs.

The danger of antifreeze

One important consideration for our canine companions, is the access they have to certain toxins during the winter. The most common intoxication we encounter in veterinary practice in the winter months is antifreeze ingestion. While antifreeze may not seem appealing to us, it actually has a sweet flavour and can be a favourite of curious animals. Always make sure your antifreeze is kept in a sealed container away from inquisitive critters. Do not let your dog sniff or lick at puddles that are found near cars. If you witness your pet eating the poison, take your them to the vet immediately. Symptoms to watch out for would include:

  • Acting ‘drunk’
  • Vomiting
  • Excessive urination or depression.

Consuming anti-freeze is most often fatal, or can cause life-long kidney issues, so prevention is always better than cure. For further information on anti-freeze poisoning >

Enjoying the snow

Winter time shouldn’t be all doom and gloom though. If there has been a good snow fall we can play ‘hide the treat’ in the back garden - just make sure your dog doesn’t eat too much snow while eagerly making its way to the food! For those ball-mad breeds, tease them with some snowballs and watch their expression when it breaks up in their mouth each time. Finally, if the kids are getting bored while off school, ask them to build an intricate snow maze or agility course for your dog and time them to see how long they take each time!

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