I was recently forced to put on a Halloween costume, so I know that cold weather is just around the corner. I’m an indoor cat who prefers to lounge by the fireplace, so the thought of snow makes my whiskers tremble with disgust. My feline friends should stay indoors (unless they are on leash with a harness and their owners are right there with them) because it isn’t safe out in the big wide world for us. I have heard that most dogs enjoy the snowy weather – it’s hard for me to believe but that’s the rumour. For my canine chums, I’m going to share some guidelines about the winter weather.
Most people don’t think about changing feeding habits in the winter. Dogs are running around, playing fetch (eww), swimming (even more eww) and generally acting like big goofs in the summertime. All of those activities expend quite a few calories during the course of the day. In the winter months, owners tend to be less active, and dogs are less active as a result. Sometimes, especially during very cold days and blizzards, the only activity dogs get is going outside quickly to do the necessary deeds and then they come right back into the house. Not too many calories expended that day. However, the average dog owner continues to feed the same amount of food that the dog usually gets in the summer months. That’s why most dogs coming into the clinic in the spring have gained several pounds! So it is a good idea to reduce the amount of food you feed your dog as their activity decreases associated with colder temperatures.
Some dogs have thick coats that help protect them from the colder temperatures when their owner takes them for a walk. However, many dogs are short haired dogs or dogs who get groomed, and they have less protection against the frigid air than their long-haired friends. It is a good idea to get some kind of jacket to help keep your pooch warm during those chilly walks. Although the thought of wearing clothes certainly gives me the kitty willies (as you can see from the humiliating photo at the top of this article), your dog will appreciate something that will break the wind and offer some warmth.
Dog toes are quite sensitive to the frigid air – you’ve probably seen your dog holding up one foot after another during a walk on a very cold day. You can buy booties to help protect the sensitive foot area. You should train your dog to wear booties BEFORE you need to wear them outside. A little positive training inside the house goes a long way to help keep your dog from wanting to rip the booties off outside. Dogs with long hair between the toes often get snowballs built up under the foot which is uncomfortable. It’s like getting a rock in your shoe but freezing cold at the same time. Checking the feet regularly to break up the foot snowballs helps keep your dog’s tender tootsies comfortable.
I hope that helps keep your canine companion a little bit more comfy during the next few cold months. Now that I have shared these guidelines, I’m going back to snoozing by the fireplace. No cold weather for this cat (and hopefully no more costumes either)!
Written by Cambrian Animal Hospital