Check Your Dog’s Paws
Even if your dog acts normal in the cold, he may have cold weather injuries that need to be addressed. Some of the most common forms of these injuries are in your dog’s paws. Look for cracks, sores, bleeding, or other issues that you have not seen before. This can spawn from frequent walks on cold ground or prolonged exposure to the environment. Also watch your dog when he walks. If he is limping it may be due to ice building up in between his toes.
Invest in an ID Chip
Now is the best time to microchip your dog if you have not already. Dogs are lost more often in the cold months because they wander off looking for food or shelter. Get a location chip with your address on file for the dog, as well as a secure collar in case your pet goes off the property. If you have a well-fenced yard to keep the dog contained in, that’s even better – but it’s still not a reason to avoid getting a chip and collar.
Feed Your Dog Well
A good diet will ensure that your pet stays healthy in all environments, and it will give him a protective layer of fat and muscle to keep his core temperature up. This is not to say that you should overfeed your dog in the winter. If your dog is not moving around as much due to the cold, you may need to slightly adjust your portions to accommodate for the limited activity. Then when the summer months start to pick up, you can bump up the food intake again.
Clean Your Dog’s Fur
Your dog’s fur can act as a trap for ice and debris, but it may also collect harmful chemicals people use to clear their streets and driveways. De-icers and antifreeze can cause your pet to get sick if left on the skin for too long. When you come inside after a walk, wipe down your dog’s feet and sides to make sure you get rid of these chemicals as much as possible. If your dog stays in your yard regularly, avoid using these chemicals so you do not put your pet at risk.
Prepare for Emergencies
Cold weather brings about severe storms that could put your entire family at risk. You should have a plan in place to get out of your home if you need to evacuate quickly. Train your pet to load into the car on command, using dog treats to reward him for good behavior. Put a small set of food and some water bottles near the door or in a sealed container in your vehicle so you can leave at a moment’s notice.
Above all else, watch for signs that your pet is in distress in the cold. If the environment is too extreme for your pet to do well in, limit the time spent outside to bathroom breaks only. Do what you can to keep your dog active indoors as you wait for the spring to come rolling back in.