How your pet handles the colder weather depends on many factors, ranging from breed to age and general health. Many pets love the cold weather, while others are only interested in quick bathroom breaks and heading back to the warmth of the house.
Whenever you are outside in winter, always look for signs of discomfort due to cold, including shivering, running towards or standing near the door, and paw-lifting. Here are some further tips to help keep your pet safe and sound during the cold months ahead.
Make the walk a little shorter. Instead of one or two long walks, break your walk time into shorter segments that will end before anyone gets too cold. It can be wise not to go as far from home as well so that, should you notice your pet feeling the cold, you are not too far from home. You can still cover lots of distance when you go in circles!
Know the signs of hypothermia and frostbite. Pets are susceptible to hypothermia and frostbite, just like humans. Hypothermia symptoms may include shivering, whining, lethargy, and fur and skin that is cold to the touch. Frostbite may be less noticeable and may take some time before the symptoms appear in the form of blisters or skin ulcers, stiffness or clumsiness, and areas of blackened or dead skin. Frostbite is most likely to occur on the paw pads, tails, and ears. If you think your pet could be showing signs of hypothermia or frostbite, contact your veterinarian immediately.
Clean your pet’s paws after a walk. Winter walks can take you through many nasty chemicals and substances that can harm your pet, including salt, ice melter, and anti-freeze products. Check for chapped paws and itchy, flaking skin as well. To clean your pet’s paws after a walk, gently wipe them with a soft towel or cloth soaked in warm (not hot) water and wrung so it is only damp. This will melt away snow and ice and remove any salt buildup. Once you’re finished, dry off their paw with another towel.
Paw protectors, which are available in a wide selection of styles and sizes, maybe another option to keep your pet’s paws clean and are widely available at most pet stores. But remember that some pets will wear them without issue, and others may not like them. Go along with whichever your pet will tolerate.
Just like in summer, never leave them alone in the car. A vehicle can act like a freezer, trapping in cold air, which can quickly endanger your pet. If you must travel with your pet, never leave them unattended in your vehicle, even with the engine and heat running.
Save the shorter haircuts for the summer. A little extra hair will provide your pet with that much-needed extra warmth. A quick trim should avoid clinging snow chunks and salt crystals for long-haired dogs. For those less shaggy short-haired pups, a nice coat or sweater with a high collar will help them stay cozy on those chilly winter walks.
Remember, whether you’re walking around the neighbourhood or playing at one of the off-leash parks – always stay with your pet, be aware of their body-language and comfort level, and be prepared to call it a day should your dog show signs of discomfort.