5 Ways to Keep Your Dog Healthy and Safe in Winter Weather

January 25, 2016 - Nate Needs

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5 ways

I’ve lived in Iowa my whole life, so I should be used to the frigid winters by now.  But for some reason, each time it rolls around, I am never quite prepared for the snow and cold.  The first few moments of a snowfall are always very pretty and peaceful, and it’s fun to step out into a glittering, white flurry of flakes the first day of the season.  But then the snow stays.  And stays and stays.  And along with the snow comes problems:  Shoveling.  The flu.  Icy roads.  But also painful paw pads, dry itchy skin, and changes in diet and grooming routines.  It can be tough for your dog to adjust to a new season, but you can help winter-proof your pet with these five tips.  (Here is a link to my original post, written in Nov. 2014 – tips have been updated)

1.  Protect those paws.  That frozen ground is painful for your dog’s sensitive paws!  Frostbite, ice melt irritation, and cracking/drying are just a few of the risks involved when your dog steps out into the snow.  Think ahead by buying some booties for your dog to wear outside, and be sure to wipe your pup’s paws thoroughly when they come inside.  You can also treat dry and cracked paws, nose, and skin with soothing balms.

2.  Update your dog’s wardrobe.  Besides the protective booties, think about dressing your dog in a warm coat or sweater when he goes outside.  Senior, underweight, or small dogs are particularly sensitive to cold weather.  A dog’s fur coat alone isn’t enough to protect them from bitter winds, especially if they spend a lot of time outside.

3.  Stay smart when outside.  Know your dog’s limits – if your teeth are chattering, chances are that your dog’s are too.  If you have an elderly or very young dog, consider keeping a pee pad inside for the very coldest of days.  Keep your walks short and brisk, and always watch your pup closely – more dogs go missing in the winter than any other time of year.  Don’t let your dog eat too much snow, since it can cause stomach upset in large amounts.  And whatever you do:  Keep your dog nice and dry!  A dog’s coat retains water, and once it’s wet it takes a very long time to dry; this is especially dangerous in the winter because of the risk of hypothermia.

4.  Winterize your dog’s grooming habits.  A longer fur length than usual can help protect against cold temperatures.  Embrace the shaggy! 🙂  Trim nails and groom paws more often to keep an eye out for irritated pads.  Be sure your dog is completely dry after bathing before taking him outside.  Also, consider your dog’s diet:  Since he will be spending more time indoors and most likely getting less exercise, adjust their food accordingly.  (Keep in mind:  There are many ways to exercise your dog that don’t involve going outside!  Think fetching games or “find-the-treat”!)

5.  Know the symptoms of winter-related illnesses.  Hypothermia, frostbite, ice melt irritation, and antifreeze poisoning are all things to watch out for during the winter season.  If your dog loves being outside in the winter, keep a close eye on him and look for violent shivering or lethargy – both signs of hypothermia.

Here are some great resources about winter-proofing your pets:


Association of Professional Dog Trainers

Cesar’s Way


Some breeds, like the Great Pyrenees (shown above) and Husky, absolutely love winter weather!  If they are having a great time in the snow, by all means…let them play!  However, keep an eye on them to make sure they aren’t exhibiting any symptoms of hypothermia, and always have water and a warm shelter available.  (Psst!  Are you looking to add a snow-loving Husky to your family?!  A.P.E. has a gorgeous female available for adoption.  Read more about her here!)


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