Some tips to make sure your dog safely enjoys Canada’s chilliest season.
We winterize our homes and vehicles every fall. We take out our winter wardrobe to prepare for the cold but do you do the same for your beloved dog? Both city and country dogs face multiple hazards in the winter but, with a little bit of preparation, some awareness and a few tips, your dog can smoothly sail through the winter months right into spring.
Dogs aren’t able to bundle up the same way we do when the cold comes. Depending on the length and texture of your dog’s coat, you might need to invest in a proper winter jacket for your best bud. It is important for dogs to conserve body heat, especially if they have health conditions, are young, old, small or thin.
Although you can buy jackets online, it is usually best to go to a shop or vendor where you can try the jackets on your dog. Different breeds have different needs when it comes to jackets. A Xoloitzcuintli needs almost full body cold protection in the snow where a more coated breed would be fine with simply chest and abdomen coverage.
Go for a waterproof jacket that will protect from both the snow and rain. Be sure to let your dog walk and run a bit in the coat to ensure that he is able to have a full range of motion before purchasing a jacket. The colour of the jacket is entirely up to you. Many people like bright coloured jackets as they be easily seen in the snow.
If you’ve got a double-coated breed like an Alaskan Malamute or a Samoyed, then you will only need to invest in a really great coat for yourself as this season is these breeds’ time to shine and most of them would love nothing more than a nice long walk during a blizzard.
Just as with us humans, indoor heating in the winter months can lead to dry skin and coat for dogs. Many experts recommend adding coconut oil to your dog’s food in the winter months to moisturize the skin and bring a shine to the coat from the inside out. Start gradually to avoid any stomach upset and work up. Half a teaspoon is recommended for dogs under 30lbs, a teaspoon for medium dogs and a tablespoon will do for large dogs. Be sure to consult your veterinarian before adding any supplements to your dog’s diet.
Regular grooming is as essential during the winter as it is all year long and will make you aware of any skin conditions right away. Many shampoos are available to help soothe a dog’s skin using natural ingredients like oatmeal, tea tree oil, aloe and more. Talk to your veterinarian or groomer to see which one is right for your dog.
Many dogs require some foot protection in the winter months. It doesn’t take very long for ice balls or sidewalk salt to cause pain to a dog’s feet while out on a walk. You may want to buy a set of boots for your dog. Talk to other dog owners in your neighbourhood or kennel club to see which brands they like best. Just like with a jacket, it’s best to try these on before you purchase. You will want to make sure you get the correct size for your dog. The boot should fit snug so that they don’t fall off, but also not be too tight. Warning: most dogs walk in a hilarious manner when they first try on boots, but, with a little encouragement generally learn to walk in them just fine.
It’s also important to keep your dog’s foot groomed properly in the winter. Make sure their nails are clipped and trim the hair around your dog’s pads and toes to reduce the amount of ice, snow and salt getting caught in there. Paw wax or balm can be helpful in retaining pad moisture in the harsh cold.
If you don’t use boots, be sure to monitor your dog’s feet while out on a walk to ensure that he hasn’t got something uncomfortable caught in his paw like salt.
It’s also a good idea to buy a shallow bucket to fill with warm water so you can dip your dog’s paw in after a walk and dry off with a towel. This helps make sure no salt or ice is caught in the paw and will also keep your floors cleaner longer.
An enormous winter hazard for dogs lies in your garage and on your driveway. Ethylene glycol, the main ingredient in most antifreeze brands, has an inviting aroma and a sweet flavour. Its appealing smell and taste often tempt dogs to ingest this highly poisonous substance. Be sure to keep antifreeze sealed and away from your dog;
clean up spills immediately and thoroughly. Fix any leaks quickly. Also, don't allow your dogs to wander unattended
near driveways, roads, garages or other places where he could come into contact with antifreeze.
Antifreeze poisoning occurs in two phases. In the first phase, the dog typically appears lethargic, disoriented, uncoordinated and groggy. Symptoms usually appear 30 minutes to one hour after ingestion and can last for several hours. If your dog is behaving this way, don't delay. Call a veterinarian. Consider whether any of her activities could have brought him into contact with antifreeze.
The second phase, which can last up to three days, is characterized by symptoms such as vomiting, oral and gastric ulcers, kidney failure, coma and sadly, death.
Always keep in mind that you know your dog better than anyone else- if he is showing changes in behaviour or digestion, go see your dog’s veterinarian.
My advice is to always keep your dog leashed near icy ponds to avoid a horrible situation. Even if frozen, ponds are likely to have weak areas unable to support your dog’s weight. It’s simply not worth the risk.
If you escape the Canadian winter by heading south, well first of all, lucky you, secondly, it’s important to protect your dog from fleas. While many of us here in Canada only use flea control for about half the year (depending on your province), if you are heading towards warmer weather, you will need to protect your dog from fleas throughout the duration of your stay. Your dog’s veterinarian can help pick out a plan that’s right for your dog.
Winter can be a challenging time for all of us Canadians. Taking time to prepare your dog for the season this year will make the colder months easier for both you and your dog. On the bright side, colder weather means more cuddling up on the couch with your pup and what’s better than that?