Winter with a dog can be a fun time, exploring leaf piles and drifts of snow. With that in mind, let’s set the record straight about some common winter dog myths to keep your pets safe this coming season.
1. Dogs don’t get cold; they have an in-built fur coat to keep them warm
Dogs do feel the cold, just like us humans! Although they have a fur coat to help protect them against some of the elements, unless your dog is bred for life in arctic conditions they may need some extra protection when out on those cold winter days, even larger breeds.
Shivering is an obvious sign your pet is becoming too cold, but there are more subtle signs to be aware of as well such as anxiousness, reluctance to go outside and picking paws up higher or more frequently than usual when out walking.
Padded, waterproof coats are not just a fashion statement but can actually be very beneficial should you think your pet is becoming cold. An extra covering should particularly be considered for older animals, puppies and those who are unwell as these groups of pets may have a tendency to become cold more easily when out on their walks.
Make sure you get a coat that fits correctly, does not obstruct your dogs movement and avoids being soiled when your dog toilets.
2. Dogs are fine to be left in cars during the winter months
As much as cars act like greenhouses in the summer time, they can be as cold as refrigerators in the winter. Cars can freeze to the point of being dangerous within a very short period of time making it no safer to leave a dog in a locked car during the Winter, than during the hot summer months. Leaving your car engine running to keep your pet warm offers no further protection from risk either, as carbon monoxide build up can be swift and fatal.
3. A bit of rain never hurt a dog
A dog’s hair coat is designed to stand up away from the skin, trapping air between the hairs which is warmed by the dogs body to provide a layer of insulating warmth. A wet fur coat has no space between the hair and skin to trap this insulating layer, swiftly leaving even the thickest fur coat potentially unable to provide adequate warmth in the colder months.
If you’re walking your dog in the rain or snow, it’s a good idea to consider using a raincoat on colder days. Wet dogs should be thoroughly dried and gently warmed if they are cold on their return.
4. A dogs pads protect them from winter weather. Dog boots are just a fad!
Whilst it may be true that dog boots are difficult to put on, the struggle really is worth it as they do provide protection against a wide range of Winter injuries.
Paws can be easily sliced, punctured and grazed by ice, whilst snow can become compacted and trapped between their paw pads leading to discomfort and injury. Wet feet also become cold quicker leaving your dog at risk of frost bite. Dogs should have their paws checked regularly both during and after walks to ensure injuries and snow build-up do not occur. Bathing feet in warm water on their return home also helps.
Boots are also ideal for dogs with arthritis or mobility issues as they provide warmth for their toe joints as well as traction to prevent slips and falls.
5. Winter chemicals and salt melts pose no threat to dogs
Possibly one of the most dreaded winter emergency calls at any vets is a report of an animal having access to anti-freeze. Whilst it may not seem enticing to us humans, anti-freeze actually smells and tastes very sweet to our pets meaning they will readily lap it up from puddles, spills or bottles and view it as a treat! Unfortunately it can very quickly lead to catastrophic kidney damage and in a high proportion of pets, it can prove fatal. All anti-freeze products should be kept well out of reach of any pets and spills should be cleaned immediately.
Salt melts, even those denoted as pet safe can also spell problems for your pet’s feet. The salt causes a reaction that can burn a dogs pad’s if in high enough concentration. This, along with a dog being able to pick up other winter chemicals on their paws whilst out for winter walks, means dog boots or bathing your dog’s feet in warm water on your return home is recommended.
6. Dogs should gain weight in the winter to give them more insulation against the cold
Gaining weight as a way to keep your pet warm is not advised. Whilst it may offer a slight amount of protection against the elements, it will put an additional strain on all of their organs and in particular their joints, making this an ill-advised reason for gaining weight.
7. The location of a dog’s bed doesn’t have to change, winter or summer
If you can feel a cold draft, then chances are your dog can too. Positioning your dogs bed away from drafty areas and a good distance from a direct heat source to prevent burns can help your pet to stay at a comfortable temperature when they snuggle up to sleep.
8. There is no chance to exercise a dog during the dark winter months
Even though the mercury is dropping and the nights are dark early, a dog still needs exercise. This doesn’t necessarily have to be outdoors all of the time, although frequent walks to maintain fitness and provide mental stimulation are of significant benefit. Play an indoors game such as hide and seek to get your pet moving and try putting their dinner in a treat ball to make them work for their supper.
9. Dogs do not need bathing or grooming during winter
There is no time of year when a dog may not be bathed should they require it. Just ensure your pet is dried more thoroughly in the winter and try to bathe and dry your pet in a warm environment to prevent them becoming chilled.
A dogs nails may also require more attention in the winter due to reduced outdoor time and walking more frequently on soft wet ground and snow.
10. Winter doesn’t affect arthritis in dogs
Whilst it’s true arthritis is not seasonal, dogs who suffer from the condition do often have their symptoms worsen on cold, damp days. It is a good idea to only exercise your older dog for as long as they can comfortably tolerate on these flare up days, which may mean that you do not walk quite as far as normal. It is still important to exercise your arthritic dog though, as this helps to keep joints supple and their supporting muscles strong. Little and often is best.