Winter is Coming!

Australian winter. Not exactly drastic compared to some, I know.  When I think of places that get actual freezing temperatures with fluffy white stuff falling from the sky I imagine this..

Jon Snow

Image: http://gameofthrones.wikia.com/wiki/Jon_Snow

The thought of walking outside and having snot freeze to my face is as terrifying to me as adorable, tiny kittens are to my dog, Billy.  So, to all you impressive people who cope with those sorts of actual winters – respect!

nervous dog

And to Billy – Come on, mate, they’re kittens!

While I may jest, it does get reasonably cold here in winter, particularly overnight.  Us humans don’t run around outdoors at midnight in our birthday suits dancing in the rain, (well except for that one guy up the street – just stop it, Jim).  Instead we rug up in nice warm clothes and take shelter from the wind, rain and hail – our pets shouldn’t be any different.  Don’t be fooled by their luxurious fur coats – they acclimatise to the warmer months just as we do, and they definitely feel the cold.

Is Your Dog Mostly Indoors or Outdoors?

Some dogs spend all winter (and every other season!) inside the house lazing about on the sofa while their families hand feed them eye fillet served medium-rare.  Others race around backyards, barrel back and forth in the local park, and splash in every mud puddle within reach.  And there are some, like my two dogs, that live a fairly even balance of the two (minus the eye fillet – my dogs prefer porterhouse).

It’s a great idea to keep your dog’s lifestyle in mind when considering their needs during the colder months.

dog in bed

Keeping Warm

This, of course, is most important for the dogs that spend a lot of their time outdoors.

Protection from the elements – it goes without saying really. Our pets absolutely must have shelter.  Keep in mind this doesn’t just mean a roof over their heads; protection from wind is just as important.

Coats and jackets – not only do they look schmick, but they are a really great idea for helping dogs to stay warm, especially

  • Small dogs,
  • Dogs with short coats
  • Dogs without a lot of body fat.

Dog coat snow

And dogs like Baxter who like to sit in the snow…

Raised, padded beds – Outdoor beds or kennels need to be raised so the cold and damp from the ground doesn’t seep in.  Some nice padding and blankets are also important for comfort, particularly for creaky older dogs who may be experiencing some arthritis.

Bath time – If your pooch has rolled in something extra disgusting or is generally just starting to become Captain McStinky Pants, a bath may be unavoidable.  Be sure to use nice warm water and dry them off thoroughly afterwards though.

dirty dog mud

Yoshi! You stink!!

Eating Right

As you can imagine, the dog that snuggles up inside by the toasty warm fire all day should generally not be consuming as many calories as the dog outside experiencing colder temperatures and staying active.  You may need to adjust your pooch’s diet to ensure they don’t become too fat or lose too much weight.

Don’t forget to always have a source of clean, fresh water available as well.  While ice blocks can make fun treats in Summer, they’re not so great when it’s cold.

Exercise

How nice is it to curl up on the sofa with a movie or a good book when the weather’s rubbish! I remember those glorious days, before two dogs, a cat, and two small children completely monopolized every waking minute of my time at home.  Snuggle time indoors is great, but it’s still super important to brave the miserable wet days in the name of exercise.  A sedentary lifestyle isn’t good for us or our furkids. So throw on a coat or grab an umbrella (preferably not one that immediately blows inside-out like mine!) and get out there!

If you peek out the window and it’s just too hideous outside to even contemplate a walk, improvise!  There are loads of ways you and your dog can have fun in the house. Do some tricks training, hide some little treats around the place, or just have a play.

Dog lying on treadmill

Ummm, Baxter? I don’t think that’s how you use a treadmill.

Health Concerns

Being cold puts extra stress on bodies.  This can lead to reduced immune function and a greater susceptibility to getting sick.  This is of extra relevance in the very young, very old and immunocompromised.

Just like for us, the aches and pains of arthritis or old injuries will be exacerbated by cold and inactivity.  For a guide on helping dogs with arthritis, check out Arthritis in Dogs – Seven Ways you can Ease the Pain.

Sometimes pets get less attention in the colder months, because the activities we enjoy with them when it’s warm aren’t quite as fun.  It also tends to be the quietest time of the year in veterinary clinics for check ups.  Keep a close eye on your furbaby over the winter months, and if you notice any changes in energy levels, appetite, thirst, or just behaviour in general, it’s worth a check over for peace of mind.

And Don’t Forget the Routine Health Care

Appropriate parasite prevention is an individual thing for every dog.  This depends on many factors, including where in the world you live and which parasites are a problem there.  The important ones for most dogs include intestinal worms, heartworm, and fleas, (and in some places, ticks) and we really need to stay on top of these all year round.

A lot of people tell me fleas aren’t a problem in winter, and to some degree they’re right. It’s a lot less likely for a pet to be crawling with fleas when temperatures are cold, because fleas reproduce better when it’s warm.  The mistake often made though, is to think this is a good reason to lapse on flea prevention.  In actual fact, this is the perfect time to completely eliminate any fleas from your home environment and prevent any from coming home on your pets after a visit to the dog park or a wander around the local neighbourhood.  It’s much easier to achieve a flea-free home in winter than when fleas are running rampant during summer.

Remember to keep up to date with those vaccinations, too.

Winter Considerations for Dogs – In a Nutshell

dog care in winter

 

That’s about it I think.  My pal Baxter and I wish you a peaceful and relaxing day. Now move over Baxter, there’s room on that sofa for two!

dog under blanket

What do you guys think? Have I left out anything important?  I’d love to hear your tips too!

Disclosure

This post was sponsored by the good people at Frontline.  All views and opinions are my own, and they can’t be held responsible in any way for my terrible sense of humour or poor grammar.

Joanna Paul
Dr. Joanna Paul BVSc (hons) BSc Jo is a practicing small animal veterinarian based in Melbourne, Australia. Working in partnership with loving pet owners to ensure their fur-kids remain happy, healthy family members life-long is what brings her joy. Well, that and taking naps. Jo strongly believes that helping to maintain the wonderful bond between a pet and their human is reason enough for a happy dance.
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Showing 13 comments
  • MobiliKris
    Reply

    Very good advice. Small pets with low body fat and a short fur are the first beneficiaries of coats, but these covers are also good for a little bit bigger dogs, but with paralyzed rear legs. While they have no problem to run around in winter thanks to wheelchairs, their hind legs can get cold without them noticing.

  • jay
    Reply

    Its a good tips,

    And we could play in the house and gathered together in a group so that it can help warm the room 🙂

  • Emma
    Reply

    Great tips! My dog has a very thin coat, so he will definitely need my help this winter!

  • Silas Knight
    Reply

    Keeping my dog healthy is really important to me, especially in the winter. I think those little doggie coats and jackets are the cutest things, I need to look at buying one. We also need to take our dog in for routine health care, thanks for the reminder!

  • Hazel Owens
    Reply

    I like your tip to put your dog in coats or jackets. My mother has an Italian Greyhound, and he has no body fat whatsoever. He absolutely hates wearing sweaters, but if he were smarter, he’d understand that they’re keeping him warm and helping him stay healthy. Thanks for the article!

    • Joanna Paul
      Reply

      I love Italian Greyhounds, they’re so sweet! They certainly feel the cold though, thanks for your comment!

  • Elden Gatley
    Reply

    I agree that you should keep your dog warm. Otherwise, it may develop a cold or other sickness. As a result, you will incur costs from taking it to the vet.

  • BestDogCratesAndBeds
    Reply

    Thanks for this article. It’s super cold here in Connecticut, so my dog is going to love that I stumbled across this. Do you have any tips on getting your dog used to wearing a coat? Thanks

  • Correy Smith
    Reply

    When it comes to the winter season, I make sure that my dog gets enough dog vaccinations. Mostly because the winter time is when most humans and animals fall ill to some type of disease. I say that because last winter my dog was feeling after taking her out for a run.

  • Sam Ivy
    Reply

    There’s definitely a lot of ways to make sure that your dog stays active in winter. Some even like playing in the snow. In addition to coats and jackets, you can even buy dog boots now, which are great for dogs with sensitive paws.
    I agree, it’s easy to relax about parasite treatments in winter, but it’s important to try and maintain your regular routine, like you said, it’s not just fleas that are a problem. Thanks for the great tips.

    • Joanna Paul
      Reply

      Hi Sam,
      Thanks for your comment, and for the excellent tip about boots! I had completely forgotten to mention them, but they are a fantastic option for some dogs.

  • Gillian Shippen
    Reply

    It is also impritant to keep in mind that toileting habits can be affected with the cold weather too.
    My cat usually does his toilets outside but we have a litter tray inside for him as well just in case he needs it (hey, you never know when the urge to go hits and sometimes when ya gotta go, ya gotta go! and you don’t need to be running outside to go!) anywho’s…….in the colder winter months Normie (that’s my cat) will come in from outside to use his inside tray. He doesn’t like doing his private business in the cold wet grass or dirt

    Any more than dogs too……especially small breeds of dogs – lets face it they’re closer to the ground so are more likely to get a cold spot happening if they accidently touch the ground when they are – well you know!

    I often get phone calls from distressed owners because the toilet habits of their pet has changed with the weather – obviously ruling out disease first, but the owner will complain the animal does it when the owner is home (because Owner makes sure they go outside!) but when the owner isn’t home or it’s the middle of the night, despit having access to outside they animal doesn’t……would you?

    • Joanna
      Reply

      Thanks so much Gillian,
      This is such a valuable addition! I couldn’t agree with you more, who wants to go out in the cold!!

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