As winter approaches, we humans prepare for the change in weather by pulling out winter coats, hats and gloves. However, just because your dog has a natural coat doesn’t mean he’s prepared for winter weather. The cold can expose your dog to such problems as painful paws, irritated skin and even hypothermia.
Salt used to de-ice can irritate your dog’s paw pads and be harmful when ingested, which can happen if your dog licks his paws after walking outside. To protect your dog’s paws, prevent slipping and help hold in heat, consider purchasing boots for your dog. If you’d rather not or your dog doesn’t tolerate them, wash your dog’s paws, and dry them well after he’s been outside. Examine your dog’s paws for ice balls, which can form on the fur between the dog’s paw pads and make walking painful. To prevent this, trim the hair between the paw pads regularly, and apply a small amount of petroleum jelly to your dog’s paws before taking him for a walk. If your dog’s paws become irritated, ask your vet to suggest a moisturizing lotion to treat irritation.
Like humans, dogs’ skin can become dry and irritated in the winter. To prevent flaky, dry skin, dry your dog when he comes inside. Pay special attention to his belly, as this area often comes in contact with snow and ice. In addition, avoid bathing your dog during the winter months, because this strips the skin of its natural oils, which contributes to dryness. If you must bathe your dog, look for a moisturizing shampoo. And to stimulate the production of natural oils and remove dry skin, brush your dog regularly.
If the weather is too cold for you, it’s too cold for your dog. During the winter months, keep your dog inside as much as possible. Remember to also avoid leaving your dog in the car, because it can get very cold. You can always purchase a coat for your dog to help him stay warm during the winter, especially if he’s a dog with short hair. If your dog begins to experience symptoms of hypothermia, such as shivering, weakness, shallow breathing and mental changes, immediately take him to the vet.