During the warm summer months, you get to enjoy plenty of activities with your dog without a worry about how the weather can affect their health. However, as colder weather approaches, your pet's health can be affected if you don't take certain precautions. Even though Tennessee winters can be mild compared to more northern states, it can still get cold with occasional snow.
Here are four simple tips that can help your pet stay comfortable and healthy during the winter months.
1. Stay In When It's Too Cold for You
If you bundle up in your winter coat and walk outside on a very cold day, your hands, ears, and feet start to get cold quickly, even though you have a jacket on. On days when the temperature drops drastically or when the wind makes the cold worse, don't assume that because your dog has a nice thick coat that they won't get chilly.
Ears, feet, and noses will feel the cold just as much as yours do without mittens, hats, and scarves. Smaller dogs, especially, are more prone to feeling the effects of a very cold day and can easily struggle to maintain their body temperature outside. Short-haired dogs can also struggle to stay warm, so you might invest in a sweater.
If you have a dog that does not shed, like a poodle, save major grooming for spring. A longer coat is good for warmth, and close cuts can make it harder for your dog to stay warm in the winter.
2. Care for the Coat
Proper coat care is essential during the winter. A normally humid area can become much drier during the winter. You might notice your skin becomes drier and your clothes build more static when the temperature drops. This dryness also affects your dog. To your dog maintain good skin moisture, be sure to:
- Keep baths to a minimum. Your dog's skin develops natural oils that help to keep moisture locked in. Soap removes these oils, and the skin becomes dry and flaky under your dog's coat. Only bathe your dog when it's essential, instead of weekly.
- Add moisture. If you notice red, dry patches, you can try massaging some coconut or tea tree oil into your dog's coat. Your vet might also recommend a medicated cream if the skin irritation gets worse.
- Keep brushing and grooming. Your dog's coat will be healthiest if it is well-groomed.
If you notice that your dog is losing large patches of hair or if your dog's coat starts to look dull and thin, contact your vet.
3. Cover and Clean the Feet
Some larger dogs do not need to worry about cold feet during a winter walk, but smaller dogs can get cold even when the temperature is moderate. You can provide boots for your pet to wear on daily walks so that your dog gets enough exercise.
All dogs, however, can experience irritation from ice crystals and road salt. After walks, make it a habit carefully clean debris, sand, ice, and salt from your dog's feet.
4. Keep Food and Water at the Ready
Active dogs will need more calories to stay warm and to maintain their energy levels during cold weather. If you have working dog, such as a dog for cattle or sheep, increase their food and check for signs of winter weight loss. Slight weight gain is nothing to worry about during winter months, but if you have trouble keeping your dog at a healthy weight, ask your vet for guidance.
Dogs can also get dehydrated easily during the winter. It's easy to remember to provide fresh water in hot and humid July, but many dog owners forget about thirst when it is cold. Provide fresh water for your dog on a daily basis, and encourage drinking after walks.
For more information about winter grooming and diet, contact us at Barfield Animal Hospital.