It's cold, dark and a little bit bleak. We know to rug up and look after ourselves during the chillier months, but what about our dogs?
Here are 7 tips to keep your pooch happy, healthy and in great shape all winter long.
- Keep an eye on your dog's paws
- Watch what your dog eats, particularly during festive celebrations
- Microchips and ID tags help keep your dog safe
1. Watch out for cold feet
Winter means colder days, shorter evenings, freezing rain and snow. Your dog still needs daily walks and trips to the park, but don't forget: dogs need to acclimate to colder temperatures just like us.
'If your dog is old or young they will be more likely to suffer from cold stress,' says Ariel Brunn from the Dogs Trust. Ariel adds that short furred breeds may be less able to handle the cold.
If your dog starts whining and lifting up its feet when out walking, it's most likely too cold underfoot.
'Trim the hair around your dog's feet to help prevent ice-balls,' she says, 'these form between the pads and toes of the feet and are really painful.'
2. Keep your dog clean
It's also important to wipe your dog down thoroughly after a snowy walk as the grit from the roads can irritate them.
'Dogs lick their paws, and too much salt can upset their kidneys,' says Elena Cavazzi from pet charity Blue Cross. 'Also, if they swallow grit used on pavements and roads their digestive systems can be affected. De-icing products are poisonous to dogs.'
3. Wear reflective clothing
Both owner and dog should wear bright, reflective clothing when they're out walking in the dark so motorists can see them.
'Stay away from frozen ponds or lakes and keep your dog on a lead near frozen water,' says Elena Cavazzi. 'If they do go in, don't go in after them. Most dogs are strong swimmers and are more likely to get themselves out of trouble than you are.'
4. Keep them fit
Dogs that exercise less in the winter need to eat less.
'It's dark, or wet, or snowing, so they're on the lead rather than running around,' says Elena.
She advises owners to check their dog's weight regularly.
'You could also add some indoor play into the dog's training routine.'
5. Hold the festive treats
Did you know that festive food is bad for dogs? Keep it on high surfaces and in cupboards, out of reach.
'Dogs can't handle meat fat and sauces, and chocolate is toxic,' Elena says.
'If you want to give your dog a treat make it a bit of turkey, with no bones or seasoning. But make sure everyone in the family doesn't decide to treat the dog. Too much turkey is likely to give the dog an upset stomach.'
6. ID tag your pet
In winter, it's more important than ever that your dog is microchipped, has an ID Tag and is wearing a collar.
'It gets dark earlier, so if the dog runs off it will be harder to find them,' Ariel Brunn says. 'A dog lost outside for long periods is more at risk from the cold temperatures.'
7. Find a fireworks video
Elena Cavazza suggests providing a dark, secluded place so your dog can hide when fireworks are going off outside. In preparation, find a fireworks video on the internet and play it at low volume, in the background, while you feed your dog.
'That way, the dog will learn to associate the noise with something positive – its dinner. Over a few days, gradually increase the volume of the video.'
Watch out for all these potential hazards and problems and you'll have a safe and happy dog this winter. However, if you are worried about taking your dog out in winter, gain extra peace of mind with insurance cover.
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