Winterize Your Dog!

Now that cold weather is here, it’s time to think about preparing your dog for the snow, mud, and cold winds ahead. Afterall, you probably get your home and car ready for winter. Doesn’t your dog deserve the same care?

Preparing for cold and bad weather

One of the first things you’ll notice as winter approaches is that your dog may be shedding a lot more. This is especially true with double-coated breeds. This might seem counter-intuitive. Don’t dogs need more hair in the winter? Right, but before your dog can grow a thick new winter coat, he has to shed out his old hair. You can help the process by brushing your dog more in the fall and winter months. This will help remove the dead hair and help the new coat grow in healthy and lovely. It also stimulates the skin and keeps it healthy. Plus, brushing your dog when he’s shedding can prevent all that dead hair from flying all over your house. So, definitely add more brushing to your list of things to help winterize your dog.

The heat is on

Once the weather is colder and you start using the heat in your house, it can really take the moisture out of the air. Many of us feel this when we have dry skin in the winter. Dogs have the same problem. Lots of dogs have dry, itchy skin in the winter because of the dry air in houses. You can add a humidifier to your home if you want to put more moisture back in the air. This can help both you and your dog. You can also add vitamin E or fish oil gel tablets to your dog’s meals. Fish oil is a great source of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids which are very beneficial for your dog’s skin and coat. Many dog foods also feature added omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids for improved skin and coat condition. Lots of people see their dogs itching and scratching in the winter and assume that their dogs have allergies when the problem is really dry heat and dry skin. Try the vitamin E and/or the fish oil and your dog should have soft, supple skin throughout the winter months.

Coats

These days, most dogs don’t live outside 24/7 so cold weather and the elements don’t have as much effect on a dog’s coat as they did at one time. Most dogs have a good outer coat to protect them from cold weather and some dogs also have an insulating undercoat for more warmth. If you have a double-coated dog, he should remain warm when he’s outside playing or walking as long as his undercoat remains dry. If you have a dog with a single coat (that is, a dog that doesn’t have an undercoat), your dog might need a coat or sweater when he goes out in cold temps.

If you have cut your dog’s coat very short or shaved him during the summer months, it’s a good idea to let it grow out more during the winter. This will help keep him warmer when he’s outside. If you have a breed with naturally short, smooth hair, you may also want to consider a coat or sweater for your dog. This is particularly true with small Toy dogs. They feel the cold more than big dogs. (Some of the sled dog breeds prefer cold weather and don’t like being in a warm house all the time.)

Paws

Winter also means that your dog’s paws will likely be exposed to ice and snow. One way to protect his paws is by using a product to help toughen and protect them so they won’t become chapped or raw when he is outside in cold weather. You can find these products at pet stores and online. If your dog’s paws do become cut or chapped, you can also buy soothing paw ointments. Or, you can purchase winter boots for your dog to keep his paws protected from ice and snow. This is often a good choice, especially if you live in an area where sidewalks and roads are covered with salt and de-icing chemicals. These chemicals can be harmful to dogs yet it’s easy for dogs to lick their paws and ingest the chemicals after walking on them.

To bathe or not to bathe

As for bathing your dog during winter months, most dogs don’t get as dirty in the winter because they aren’t outdoors as much as they are during the summer months. You will probably be able to use the same shampoo as usual for your dog but you may need to adjust the conditioner you use depending on whether your dog’s skin is dry and itchy from the heat in your home and other factors. If you don’t normally use a conditioner for your dog, you might need to use one in the winter because of the added stress of the weather on his coat.

If you follow these suggestions your dog’s skin and coat should look great all winter.

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