Keeping a dog happy and healthy can be difficult at the best of times. While they are wonderful pets, they also have a habit of eating whatever they find, exploring places they shouldn’t and generally getting into trouble that can negatively impact their health.

With winter having well and truly arrived, and the really cold weather beginning to creep in, dog owners may begin to find that taking care of their pets becomes even more difficult. In addition to the usual mischief that dogs get up to, there are the additional perils of snow and ice to worry about.

Luckily, there are a few simple steps you can take to protect your dog from the worst of the winter weather. Follow these tips, and your faithful animal companion can have a happy winter without any worries about their health.

Coats

There is a time and a place for dressing dogs up. The vast majority of pets will not appreciate being put in human clothes for their owners’ amusement, and this can even be detrimental to your dog’s behaviour. Remember, dogs are animals with a pack mentality. Treating them like people can confuse them, and cause them to misbehave.

However, in the winter some dogs will be visibly affected by the cold. This is especially true for thinner breeds, as well as ones with short fur. You should easily be able to tell if your dog is too cold, as they can be seen shaking or shivering and may also whine.

In these circumstances, the best thing to do is get a coat for your dog. Look for winter fleece coats that will best fit your dog’s breed. You will want to make sure that it is breathable, otherwise your dog could actually end up overheating, and make sure it is easy for your dog to move around in.

Food

Dogs burn more calories in winter, as their bodies use more energy keeping warm. As such, you may need to change their diet to reflect this. If you find that your dog becomes sluggish, or struggles to stay warm a few hours after eating, then you might need to increase your dog’s portion sizes at mealtimes.

Make sure your dog is getting premium dog food at this time of the year. If you bulk out their diet with low-quality food then they can more easily become obese due to the higher fat and carbohydrate content, and may end up burning through their energy faster.

Opt instead for a brand such as Burns dog food to make sure your dog is getting the nutrition they need as well as the calories. Burns even has special food for more active, working dogs, so you can ensure that they are getting the energy they need to perform more strenuous tasks in the cold.

Water is extremely important for dogs in winter as well. We usually associate hot weather with dehydration, but cold winters can be just as bad for dogs. Make sure your pet’s water bowl is kept full, as your dog should have plentiful access to fluids to keep them healthy through the winter.

Paws

At winter, it is important to remember that your dog will be essentially be walking around on bare feet. If you wouldn’t enjoy freezing your toes on an icy path, chances are your dog won’t either. Although a dog’s pads offer more protection than a human foot, they can still get very cold and irritated in winter.

There are other hazards beyond temperature, of course. In icy conditions, many people put down grit or rock salt to melt the snow on paths and driveways. This can easily get into your dog’s pads, and cause irritation and pain. De-icers that drip from cars onto the path can also harm your dog’s feet, and cause health issues if they are drunk, so keep an eye out!

Dog shoes might be the answer for your pet. Dogs do not usually like shoes at first, as they are not natural and they will not be used to them. However, they can be an invaluable tool for keeping your pet’s paws safe from winter hazards, so they are worth buying.

If your dog’s paws are getting cracked and sore in the cold, this can be a sign of a health issue. Sometimes, this can also be caused by poor diet. Consult your vet first, but it could be worth switching your dog over to a more natural, raw food diet such as the BARF diet. This will ensure they get the nutrients they need to keep their feet healthy.

Written by: Hannah