Jan 27, 2021
Caring for your canine as winter bites
The difference between summer and winter temperatures in the UK can be 20-30C, and January and February are the coldest months. In winter we wear warmer clothes, have the heating on, put a winter duvet on the bed…but do we make enough changes to help our dogs cope with the wet and cold of winter? Here are some tips that will help your dog stay happy and healthy in all seasons.
Keep them warm
Just like us, dogs get cold. But unlike us they can’t put a jumper or coat on. On walks, asleep in their beds in an unheated room in the day and especially at night, they’ll feel the cold. At Ruff and Tumble, we don’t tend to use outdoor coats because our philosophy is to let dogs be dogs and deal with the mess afterwards! However, in winter, if your dog is slower, older or short-haired, a warm dog coat may be exactly what they need to encourage them to get outside for the exercise that is essential for them. The outdoor coat we like the best is made by Hurtta. They offer a range of sizes and styles including some with a cosy liner. They are expensive but last forever, wash and dry quickly and still look good after multiple washes.
Another handy tip is to keep vet bedding in the car or crate, so that after walks they can snuggle up in it. It’s not expensive, washable, super cosy for dogs to lie on and easily googled and bought online/from a pet store.
A heated pad is a good idea for older dogs or pups too, on chilly days and evenings.
A quick rub down on very wet dogs followed by a Drying Coat in the car and house is ideal
Dry them thoroughly
It’s Important to keep dogs warm and dry after wet and cold winter walks. A quick rub down on very wet dogs followed by a Drying Coat in the car and house is ideal, but especially in the car if you are going straight to the supermarket after walks. We hear lots about cars getting hot in summer but they also get freezing in winter! It’s very important to not let dogs get cold whilst wet as vets say it adversely affects joints over time and is painful for arthritic dogs. Leave the Drying Coat on until your dog is completely dry. They won’t overheat, even with the heating on at home, as the coats are made of cotton and breathe.
A hot tap outside to give them a warm shower after muddy walks may seem a luxury, but you will find it easier to clean the dogs because they will be more willing! If you don’t have a hot tap, then a warm bucket of water is great. Cold water is not good for their joints or their compliance!
Trimming and paw care
Dogs are trimmed less often in winter as owners think they will be warmer with a longer coat. However, it’s important to trim feet and check between pads for hard mats of either mud or ice, as they are very painful. Keep hair around the eyes trimmed too as dogs can be aggressive when greeting dogs whose facial expressions are hidden. It is also a good idea to keep leg feathers and the undercarriage trimmed short to help you manage the constant mud and consequent matting.
Paws get sore and can split in winter due to constant exposure to wet and cold weather – and salted pavements and rough walking surfaces make it worse. Mushers Paw Wax is excellent as a protective barrier to apply just before taking your dog out and about.
After a wet or salty walk, wash in a mild solution of shampoo for dogs with a sensitive skin.
Always dry your dogs’ paws thoroughly every time they go out in the wet, especially between the toes above the foot and underneath. Drying Mitts make this an easy task. Targeted to get right in between the pads, these long double layered towelling mittens are easier to use than thin towels and one pair will be adequate for 2-3 dogs’ paws and legs. Simply swap hands at half time, so the inner is dry again!
Once dry, moisturise and protect their pads with Vaseline, Coconut Oil, Oatmeal Paw Butter or Aloe Vera Gel. The trick with the moisturisers is to apply it at a time when your dog is sleepy and relaxed as they need to be in contact with the foot for at least 10 minutes to be effective.
If your dog will tolerate wearing small children socks or Paw Boots for the 10-minute treatment time, this will help the application to work and prevent your floor or carpets getting greasy!
Keep them active
It’s important to keep exercise regular, but also adapt to changing conditions. Always warm your dog up first with gentle exercise before launching balls to fetch. Lots of money will be saved on future vet bills if you remember that they need to warm up just like you do!
After exercise, keep those joints warm with a Drying Coat, even if they’re not wet, they will be sweaty and will chill as they cool. Some dogs can be very reluctant to venture out into the cold. If this is the case, do not force them out but make sure you provide them with lots of toys for them to play with and keep them occupied while indoors. See more tips in our ‘Simple ways to keep your dog happy’ blog here.
Cold weather often brings reduced visibility. If you're letting them off the lead, make sure your dog has good recall, and ensure their microchip details are up to date.