When the temperature drops, you aren’t the only one who needs to get prepared. Winter weather affects our furry friends as well. “It’s important to change up your dog’s day-to-day care to safeguard it from seasonal health risks,” points out Justine Lee, DVM, a board-certified veterinary emergency critical care specialist in Minneapolis. Follow these vet-approved moves to keep Rover safe and warm until spring.
1. Wipe your pet’s paws (but no need to obsess)
Deicers on streets and sidewalks typically cause only mild dermal irritation, according to Dr. Lee. “They can definitely dry out the paws, but they’re rarely a poisoning issue,” she explains. To prevent pads from cracking, give paws a quick wipe with a damp washcloth, or walk your dog through fresh snow before it goes into the house.
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2. Watch out for overheating
That little sweater may be super cute, but consider the conditions. “When your dog is exercising outside, you have to be especially careful of overheating with a jacket on,” says Dr. Lee. If the temperature is above 20 degrees and/or you have a long-haired dog, she recommends steering clear of a jacket altogether. Short-haired dogs venturing out in below-20 temps do need an extra layer, but pay attention: A panting pup is likely too warm.
3. Don’t skimp on the baths
It’s easy to assume your pet’s dandruff is caused by dry skin, but as with human dandruff, the flakes could actually be a result of excess oils, says Kathryn Primm, DVM, owner of Applebrook Animal Hospital in Ooltewah, Tenn. “Being indoors in the winter, you may not think your pet needs as much bathing, but the lack of washing can make your pup’s skin get oily and in turn flake,” she explains. Maintain your usual bath schedule—around once a week.
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4. Get creative with exercise
While it’s unclear whether pets can get seasonal depression, experts agree that being trapped inside during the winter months can make your dog go a little stir-crazy. “You can still provide environmental enrichment and exercise inside,” says Dr. Lee. “You just have to be more intentional about it.” Her favorite indoor activities: using the Chuckit! ($6; amazon.com) to launch a ball of yarn down a long hallway and having a tug-of-war session with the dog’s favorite toy.