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When it gets cold, we feel it. And so do our pets. When we feel the cold, we wrap up in warm clothes, have a cup of hot cocoa, sit by the fire – in other words, we do whatever we can to protect ourselves from the cold and make ourselves as comfy as possible.

But how can we help our dogs in winter and make them feel all comfy and warm, too?

Not all dogs are the same and not all of them have the same tolerance for poor weather conditions. Older dogs, for example, are much more vulnerable than young dogs; short-haired dogs are more prone to cold damage than long-haired dogs. Tolerance also varies from breed to breed. For example, these dog breeds tend to be more able to handle the cold weather: Border Collie, Labrador Retriever, Siberian Husky, Newfoundland, Saint Bernard. And then there are those who are not as well equipped to handle the bad weather, such as: Yorkshire Terrier, Bulldog, Boxer, Great Dane, Chihuahua.

Things you can do to help your dog get through the chilly winter months:

  • Make your walks shorter, but take your trips more frequently, if your dog seems up for it and has the energy for it.

    • Your dog will still need to exercise, even in the cold. But try to keep it gentle.

    • If it’s really cold outside, consider playing with your dog indoors – Hide-And-Seek, Fetch, Find Your Favourite Treat, etc.

  • Make your dog’s bed extra comfortable by adding more blankets, throws, or why not a heating pad underneath it.

    • Make sure that your dog’s bed is elevated and not on the floor (unless you have underfloor heating).

    • Make sure the bed is not in a drafty area.

  • Only bathe your dog indoors and if it’s absolutely necessary, and then make sure that he/she is completely dry afterwards. It’s very important to keep your dog as dry and warm as possible in the winter months.

    • Keep your dog well groomed through winter, as matted hair is not efficient at keeping out the cold rain (or indeed snow), nor will it keep your dog properly insulated.

  • If your dog is short-haired, consider getting a jacket or sweater for him/her. Measure your dog correctly to make sure it’s a proper fit, as your dog needs to feel comfortable in it.

    • If your dog isn’t keen on wearing a sweater, you may want to consider reducing his/her time outdoors.

  • Keep inspecting your dog’s paws – they can become frostbitten or cracked.

    • Trim excess hairs from between your long-haired dog’s toes.

    • If your dog is up for it, fit him/her with booties, if the weather gets really cold.

    • If you notice any cracking on your dog’s paw pads, consult your vet regarding appropriate measures to deal with it (moisturisers made for humans are a no-no).

  • Make sure your dog has access to clean drinking water at all times, both indoors and outdoors.

  • Keep an eye on your dog’s eating habits – they do need more fuel to keep them warm in winter, but only if they’re spending lots of time outdoors running and exercising. If your dog is staying indoors, he/she will not need extra energy from food.

  • Keep an eye on your dog’s nose and eyes. They too can get respiratory infections in the cold weather. So, if you notice that your dog has the sniffles, or watery eyes, please consult your vet for assessment and treatment.

  • Check your dog’s ear tips and tail ends for signs of frost bites if the weather gets really cold. If they look or feel cold, white, red or grey, or if they are dry and hard, your dog may have frostbite.

    • If that’s the case, wrap your dog up in towels or blankets (especially the extremities), and see the vet as soon as you can.

  • If your dog lives outdoors, provide him/her with appropriate shelter for the winter months.

    • Make sure that your dog’s shelter has a roof and that it protects the dog from the wind.

    • Make sure that your dog’s shelter is well insulated. Fresh straw is great, as long as it is changed regularly.

      • As they say, if it’s not warm enough for you to spend the night in the shelter, then it’s not warm enough for your dog!

    • Make sure that the entrance is protected from rain. Keeping your dog as dry and warm as possible is crucial for the prevention of different ailments.

    • If it gets really cold for a long time, it is advisable to bring all dogs inside.

    • NB! Young puppies should not be kept outside in winter.

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