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Winter Concerns for Dogs

Snow, ice, frigid temperatures - the winter months bring an array of frosty weather conditions that all spell one thing: cold! Even though winter presents a unique set of challenges for pet parents, you can keep your indoor dog healthy, happy and warm with a few helpful tips.


Combat the Cold

Although it may seem obvious, keeping your pet indoors is one of the best ways to help him combat cold weather and avoid the danger of hypothermia and frostbite. Exposed areas of skin - such as your dog's nose, tail, ears and paw pads - are particularly susceptible to frostbite.

Maybe your dog prefers to spend his winter days in perfect comfort - curled up on the sofa, watching out the window as the snowflakes fall. But for those unavoidable outdoor excursions to take a quick walk or a potty break, you'll want to help your pet be as comfortable as possible. You might want to shop for protective clothing that will help your dog beat the outdoor chill. A comfy coat or sweater and a set of pet booties will keep him toasty warm during his (short) trips outside.

The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) cautions against leaving your dog outside in the colder months as the wind chill factor can be life-threatening. If, for some reason, your dog is outside in cold weather for extended periods of time, provide appropriate shelter that is warm, dry and has a floor that is raised a few inches off the ground and is covered with straw or cedar shavings. You might also consider a heated pad or bed to place in your dog's shelter, which should be large enough for your dog to stand up, turn around and lie down in comfortably, but small enough to maintain body heat. Your dog should have access to fresh, clean water at all times. A heated pet dish can prevent the water from becoming frozen.


Focus on Feet

While keeping your pet primarily indoors is effective, when your dog does venture outdoors, you'll want to keep a close eye out for "ice balls" on his feet, as these can build up and cause pain or frostbite. You should be vigilant in protecting your dog from antifreeze and only use pet-safe de-icing salts in any areas where your dog might walk. If you're walking your dog in areas where he might inadvertently step in poisonous antifreeze or non-pet-safe de-icing salts, wipe or wash your dog's paws, legs and even belly after a walk to remove the chemicals. Your dog could accidentally ingest them by licking his paws if you don't take precautions.


Strive for Safety

The weather outside may be frightful, but that fire might not be so delightful for your dog. Make sure that your pet stays safe around your fireplace and never leave him unattended when a fire is going. Install a protective fireplace screen or pet gate that allows you to enjoy the warmth and beauty of the fire while keeping your dog from going too close to the flames.

We're all aware of the dangers of keeping a pet in the car on a hot day, but cold temperatures can also pose dangers to a dog left unattended in a vehicle. To avoid hypothermia, never leave your pet unattended in a car.


Hone in on Health

Your dog may not be as active during the winter months and this could result in weight gain. To help your pet maintain a healthy weight during the winter months, provide plenty of indoor playtimes. Try a mentally challenging game of hide and seek with your dog’s favorite toys. Consider taking your dog to a daycare facility for a day of fun, which can help your dog expend energy.

Cold weather can also be difficult for dogs that suffer from arthritis, so you might want to consider an orthopedic bed to maximize your dog's comfort. If the cold weather seems to be affecting your pet's joints more than usual, talk to your veterinarian about joint supplements or other options.