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Winter Preparedness for Your Dog

Are You and your Dog Prepared for Winter?

The weather forecast calls for snow, icy conditions and frigid temperatures with lots of freezing cold. Humans can dig through their closets and find warm clothes and coats, turn up the heat and hunker down. For pets that spend time outside, those options don’t exist. That’s why it’s important for pet owners to make sure your dog stays warm this winter. Whether your furry friend spends most of their time indoors or outdoors, comfort and warmth are things they need on a regular basis, and you should never assume they already have it. Check out these few tips for providing warmth to dogs—young and old—in the chill of winter.

Invest In A Proper Doghouse

When it comes to keeping dogs warm in winter, most people resort to buying a doghouse. It's a good investment, as shelter helps protect an animal from cold temperatures, lashing winds, and icy precipitation. However, picking the ideal doghouse requires a little more thought than one might expect.

The issue is one of size and space. The doghouse should be spacious enough to allow your pet to enter and move around with ease. (Very often, dogs spin in a circle a few times before settling down. They need to be able to turn around without bumping into any of the walls.) At the same time, though, the doghouse shouldn’t be excessively roomy. The larger the interior space, the more easily body heat can escape, and the cooler the doghouse will become. Don’t forget to consider how much space will be left once you place bedding or straw inside the doghouse. Straw is preferable to bedding in this situation because it is not an absorbent material and thus cannot absorb liquids and lose its warmth in the cold.

Something else to keep in mind in order to prevent too much heat from escaping—and to keep out precipitation and wind—the entrance of the doghouse should have a flap made of heavy plastic or waterproof burlap.

Think About A Heated Water Bowl

Remember that scene from?A Christmas Story?where Ralphie’s friend gets his tongue stuck to a metal pole? The same thing can happen to animals if they drink from a metal water bowl and their tongue happens to touch the hard metal surface. Does your pet have a water bowl for when they’re outside in winter? Is it made of metal? If so, you should bring that one in and replace it with a bowl made of plastic.

But a plastic surface in and of itself is not enough—especially when the subzero temperatures of winter roll around. Plastic containers cannot prevent water from freezing into ice, so your pet's water bowl should also have a built-in heating feature. This keeps the water in a liquid state, so your pet can rehydrate as needed.

You might want to also consider getting a plastic food dish for outdoor use. Pets burn calories to stay warm and having a plentiful supply of food while outdoors can help keep their body temperature up.

Go For the Fur

There is a good reason most dog breeds tend to grow longer fur and become shaggier in winter. This is their bodies’ natural way of preparing them for the cold. So during the next few months, it’s actually best to avoid the temptation of taking them to the groomer. Just let their fur grow naturally, and never shave their fur down to the skin; this leaves them exposed and vulnerable to the frigid winter temperature.

Here’s another thing to keep in mind. You’ll probably want to bathe your pet now and then in the near future. Just make sure you bathe them indoors and they are thoroughly dry before letting them step outside.

Boots Do Keep Dogs Warmer

Believe it or not, the snow—and some of the measures we take against it—can pose an unlikely danger to pets. Snow, when amassed between the toes, can be incredibly painful and even lead to obstruction of blood flow. Obstruction of blood flow, in turn, can result in dead body tissue, which may require amputation.

What’s more, some of the products used to melt snow and ice on sidewalks and driveways include ingredients such as salt, magnesium, and calcium chloride. If your pet walks across the driveway after it’s been de-iced, they might get some of this residue on their footpads and develop irritation. What do pets do when they develop an itch? They either lick or bite at it—meaning the substance they stepped in ends up in their mouth. Remember ingesting magnesium and calcium chloride can cause anything from an upset stomach to nerve damage.

So how can you de-ice your property while protecting your pets? Two methods work well. One is to wipe your pet’s feet clean with a moist towel every time they return from outdoors. Another—much simpler—solution is to invest in dog booties. These comfortably cover your dog’s feet and can be worn are outdoors, protecting and insulating their feet from both the cold and poisonous substances.

Warm Up To Good Bedding

Even house pets need proper insulation in the winter. In addition to a home with a consistently comfortable temperature, they should have a comfy bed—complete with warm, cushy bedding. If your pet’s bed didn’t come with bedding when you bought it, you can always customize! Blankets make ideal bedding; not only do they provide warmth and comfort, they are easy to wash. Warm bedding can be a lifesaver if your home's interior heating should ever shut off, or if your pet feels the chill even when the heat is on.

Joint Supplements

In cooler temperatures, it is not uncommon for people—and animals—to experience an increase in joint pain. For our animal friends, a variety of products can help counter this discomfort. Check out our selection of Cosequin for cats and dogs as well as K9 Optimal Joint Health.

Winter is here to stay so make the most of it for you and your pet. Stay warm. Stay happy. Stay active.