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A Winter's Tail

In just a few weeks’ time the weather will be turning much cooler.

I for one am looking forward to my cosy knits and mittens (and limited edition Christmas coffees!). They keep me warm, but they also offer protection from the elements, and we should offer this same protection to our dogs.

Winter walking can be hazardous, Dogs face pain and discomfort from colds, hypothermia, cracked paw pads, and internal toxicity from licking de-icing chemical agents from their paws and skin.

Here are some tips for keeping paws and tummies safe this winter:

  • trim any long haired paws (also checking length between the pads) to minimise the risk of ice, salt, grit, and de-icer sticking to the pads and skin;

  • bathe your dog as little as possible when it's really cold. Washing too often strips paw pads and skin of the essential oils that protect your dog. This increases the risk of dryness, flaking, irritation, and the chewing and licking of paws and skin;

  • consider using paw balm, petroleum jelly or booties to protect your dog's feet; but remember that adding a balm or jelly may increase the risk of ice, salt, grit, and de-icer sticking to your dog's paws, so always wipe them after walking;

  • always wipe your dog’s paws (balm or no balm), legs, and tummy as soon as you get indoors;

  • check between your dog’s pads for any ice, salt, or grit that has become lodged;

  • ensure that any balm or jelly is thoroughly removed so that:; your dog doesn’t ingest any balm/jelly/salt/grit/de-icing agents; doesn’t slip and injure himself on any tiled or wooden floors; it doesn’t leave a stain on your carpets!;

  • like us, pets burn a few extra calories to keep warm in winter, and also become dehydrated from central heating. Keep an eye on your dog’s weight and increase meal allowance only if needed. Keeping your dog well hydrated will avoid his skin drying out. If you need to encourage your dog to drink a little extra, I always find that a bit of tuna water mixed into drinking water does the trick. It’s tasty and nutritious;

  • regularly brush your dog’s hair or give him a massage. This improves blood circulation and skin condition (and hopefully relaxes your dog too);

  • dogs do benefit from a jumper or coat; especially the smaller and shorter haired breeds, who lose body heat much quicker. Dogs might have fur, but they don’t all have the genetics of a Siberian Husky. Everyone deserves a nice warm tummy, especially the little ones close to the ground! If possible, try to find fabrics that are natural and have soft edging. This will avoid perspiration, rubbing, and resultant skin irritation.

Remember that the wearing of creams, boots or clothing may not be for everyone. Be sure to keep an eye on your dog’s body language to determine his level of comfort and acceptance. Boots in particular can cause a number of difficulties for both brain and body. If these items are essential, always introduce them to your dog slowly, and practise in the house for short periods before they’re actually needed.

And remember the classic; if it’s too cold for you, then it’s too cold for your dog. It’s ok to stay in and play, and there are loads of indoor enrichment activities that will provide a physical and mental workout until it warms up a few degrees; and then you can go for a nice long walk, if you too are partial to a gingerbread latte with cream on top!

A coat offers protection from the elements, especially for the smaller and shorter haired breeds.

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