Image from Unleashed
Cold weather is upon us, and frankly I’d love to just hibernate until spring, whereupon someone would bring me coffee and a bagel. Yes, you, husband mine. However, as that can’t happen, and a lovely bunch of dogs need my care, here are some things I want to share with you.
First (and this isn’t a fashion issue), not all dogs weather the cold well. Short haired dogs, and small dogs, as well as more delicate dogs like greyhounds, have a tougher time generating the kind of body heat that is necessary for those outdoor romps. Sweaters and coats, while they can be awfully cute, are actually useful. Get something that fits your dog snugly enough to not allow wind and cold to crawl under the loose coat and give your dog the chills.
Find something easy to put on. I can tell you from experience, when I have six dogs clamoring to run out the door, it’s a tough thing to get a coat on a little dog who’s as excited as the others. My go-to are jackets that can be thrown over my little guys and Velcroed quickly. When things are quieter, I do have a couple of faux sheepskin coats they step into, which get zipped up the back.
Take your dog on the shopping excursion to the pet supply store. I remember having adolescent girls, for whom shopping at Forever 21 was a religious experience. They had to try on everything. I mean, everything. By the time we were done, I felt as if my ears were bleeding from the loud pop music, and my wallet was considerably lighter. But things fit. Dogs are the same. Try things on them; reward them with little treats when they’re chill about it (no pun intended). Alternatively, order coats online from a source that will allow for easy returns. You can see on the left that Bailey wore a goldfish costume this past Halloween, and Benny was a dragon. They didn’t seem to mind. Admittedly, there were some lamb jerky bits involved.
Along with coats for small or delicate, short furred dogs, consider increasing the calories in your dog’s meals. It takes energy to stay warm, and giving them slightly more food in their meals during the winter really helps.
My small dogs also have little waterproof booties that slip onto their feet easily and get Velcroed so they don’t fall off. Have you ever held your dog after running around outside and felt how cold their feet are? Check their feet when you come in from snow or ice. Keep the foot fuzz trimmed, as fur between their pads can hold snow clumps and ice. Wipe them off with an old towel. Better yet, dunk your dog’s feet in warm water for a quick rinse from rock salt. This will also help melt those little snowballs that get stuck between their toes.
When we had two Great Pyrenees, we sometimes used one of those microwaveable rice bags on their feet to provide gentle warmth. If you go this route, be sure to check the bags on your own skin to make sure they’re not too hot. These are dogs that love the cold and snow. Bred for herding in the Pyrenees mountains, I’ve never met one who didn’t want to stay outside long past the time other dogs were curled up in their beds. Still, those damn little snowballs.
Many pet owners (I know I do) keep a dog bowl with warm water by the door before walks. Pick it up immediately after use, so the dogs don’t drink from it. When you’re drying your dog’s feet, check for small cuts from sharp ice. Check for chapping, peeling pads. The latter can be treated with balm rubbed gently on their foot pads.
When you’re going for a walk with your dog buddies, don’t let them drink from puddles. The slush at the side of the road is full of salt and run-off from cars. Pretty much guaranteed to give you a sick, barfing dog. No fun for either of you. Worst case, as well, is the possibility of your dog lapping at anti-freeze spills. You probably know antifreeze is green or blue, but it can be hidden under the slush. Drinking antifreeze is the equivalent of embalming your dog, and as small as a teaspoon can cause your dog’s kidneys to shut down. This is fatal, and a very real danger to watch out for. If your dog has seizures, vomiting, or sudden lethargy, this is an emergency and your dog needs to get to the vet STAT.
And finally, make sure to provide your dog with beds or thick blankets well off cold floors. I have an arthritic old Corgi, whose joints hurt more in the cold weather, and I take extra care to keep her on soft bedding.
Stay warm, stay safe, and enjoy your winter.