Winter can be cold, long and bitter. Especially if you live in Melbourne!
If you feel the cold during the winter season, so does your dog. Whether he has a furry thick winter coat or is entirely hairless, all animals can be affected by extreme weather conditions, especially if they spend a lot of time outside or are an inny-outty dog.
Fortunately it doesn’t take much to ensure the health and safety of your dog as the temperature cools. Simple changes in daily routine and environment can prevent any unwanted discomfort or illness.
Changing your habits during the winter
Dropping temperatures mean different routines.
In summertime, grooming your dog by trimming or shaving his hair can be a great way to help keep him cool. In the winter, hair is your dog’s major source of warmth-retention.
Depending on your breed, you may still need to groom him during the winter months.
Maintaining healthy, well brushed hair is important in preventing it from matting and not insulating heat well. Trimming hair around the footpads of your dog is also important in the winter, and this will prevent any cold wet muck (or possibly snow) from gathering there.
But don’t overdo it – remember, a full weight coat is the warmest coat. If you have a double-coated dog you must never cut their undercoat. This is what allows them to regulate heat in both winter and summer months.
As much as you love spending time with your dog outdoors, the longer you spend outside, the colder your dog can become. It might feel like a sacrifice, but take shorter walks in winter. You may be rugged up and insulated against the cold, but your dog will be more “naked”.
Instead of braving the cold for the same length of time, keep exercising your dog indoors. Playing games, or running up and down hallways and stairs can be a great way to help them expend that energy, stay agile, and keep warm.
We all eat a little more than we should over winter
Roasts, hot chocolates, cinnamon rolls and that extra biscuit; we indulge much more in the winter than other months. When it comes to your dog, keeping a watchful eye on diet and weight is just as important as in the summertime. Eating regularly is crucial for maintaining energy and body heat, but with an indoor animal there is no need to increase food intake.
Just like you, there is always the chance your dog might catch a cold. Keeping bath water warm, cutting down on the amount, and length of bath time and drying him as quickly as possible can go a long way to preventing that from happening. But be attentive, and especially keep an eye out for any tell-tale symptoms of respiratory problems such as Kennel cough.
Any existing problems, such as arthritis, can be more painful for your dog over winter, so keep that in mind. If you think this could be an issue, make sure you contact your vet about any recommended treatments.
Changing your environment
If your dog cannot sleep indoors, make sure he has a warm shelter and bedding. Especially if you live in colder parts of Australia (or New Zealand).
It’s possible to buy an insulated kennel, or you can insulate it yourself and have some form of weather protection over the dooway. If things get really cold outside, bring your dog indoors to see out the worst of the bad weather.
Whether indoors or outdoors, winter bedding is as important for your dog as it is for you. Nights are the coldest, and thinking about where your dog is sleeping, and on what, is particularly important.
Bedding should be warm enough, and placed away from cold floors and drafts. If you don’t think your bedding is suitable, then nip down the pet store and get him something decent. Sleep is as important for dogs as it is for us. Make sure to wash or change your dogs bedding regularly to ward off bacteria.
For some dogs, you may want to consider keeping some canine clothing ready in the wardrobe. For small pets, sick pets or old pets, the winter hits the hardest. Especially if you notice any shivering, pet supply stores sell a variety of dog jackets and sweaters in different styles, sizes and materials. Pet clothes and shoes for different seasons can help with insulation and prevent skin irritation.
Keeping your dog warm this winter doesn’t have to be difficult. By making simple changes in your habits and environment, the winter season can be happy and healthy for everyone in the house.
Gina & Maisy