Written By: Tiffany Ruiz Dasilva, VMD, cVMA | Professional Services Veterinarian, Wild Earth
What do you call a frozen dog? A pupscicle! Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow, and we all know what that means… six more weeks of winter. If you thought you were out of ideas for fun winter activities to enjoy with your pup, we are here to help. Also, check out our top 10 tips to keep your pup safe in the cold weather.
Top 5 Fun Winter Activities
Put on your matching coats because winter isn’t over which means we can still have SNOW much fun in the cold! And for those of you with furry friends who are cold averse, don’t worry I have included some tips for having fun while staying warm indoors.
- Hiking – Taking a hike with your dog is a great option on warmer days during the winter. Be sure to avoid keeping your dog outside for long periods of time during extremely cold temperatures.
- Snowball fight – Snowball fights are not only fun for us! Your dog will love trying to catch some snowballs.
- Snow hurdles – Create hurdles out of snow for your dog to jump over. This will help keep them active and provide some mental stimulation as well. Make sure to avoid icy areas as you don’t want your dog to slip.
- Indoor fetch – Fetch doesn’t only have to be outdoors – find a safe space indoors to play fetch with a soft toy.
- Treasure hunt – Buy or make a snuffle mat or food puzzle to hide treats in to keep your fur baby entertained indoors.
Winter activities can be fun, but to make sure we can keep having fun it is important to keep our fur babies safe in these last weeks of winter.
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Top 10 Cold Weather Safety Tips
We are not the only ones that can have dry, itchy skin during the winter – our pups can too. Not only that, but the cold and snow also bring with it salt, which can irritate paws and be downright dangerous for our fur babies. In order to keep your dog safe this winter, make sure to follow these guidelines for the next six weeks until spring arrives!
- Use a coat – If your dog has short hair, short legs, or seems bothered by the cold, consider putting a coat or sweater on them to go outside. Make sure to have several on hand so as to use a dry one on each walk. Wet coats can actually cause dogs to feel colder. For dogs with long coats, do not trim hair too much during the winter months.
- Be careful with salt – Salt and de-icers are not only irritating to the skin, but can be toxic if ingested. Consider using pet-safe de-icers on your property.
- Clean off your dog’s belly and paws- During walks your dog may be exposed to de-icing products, antifreeze, and other chemicals that can be toxic. Make sure to wipe down or wash your dog’s feet and belly to reduce the risk of your pet licking these products off of their fur.
- Check paws – Make sure to examine your dog’s paws frequently for any signs of cold-weather injury. Dogs can often suffer from cracked or bleeding paws when exposed to the snow and cold. Booties are a great way to keep ice melts, chemicals, and ice from getting lodged in your dog’s paws. Clipping the hair between your dog’s toes is also a great way to reduce the ice accumulation in between their toes.
- Keep them warm – Make sure you provide your dog with a warm place to sleep away from drafts. Providing several options with lots of blankets gives your dog the opportunity to choose the right spot based on their needs.
- Provide extra food and water – Keeping your pet at a healthy weight may require a bit more calories during the winter as extra energy is lost trying to stay warm. Avoid overfeeding though as weight gain has its own drawbacks. Speak with your veterinarian about your pets nutritional needs during the winter months if you are concerned. Also make sure to provide access to fresh non-frozen water at all times.
- Use a humidifier- We know the itch that accompanies dry skin during the winter all too well, and our fur babies can be affected as well. One way to minimize this is to use a humidifier in the house.
- Keep your pets indoors- It is a common misconception that dogs are more resistant to cold weather than people are. In fact, dogs are susceptible to hypothermia and frostbite like humans. While dogs with long/thick coats may be more tolerant of cold weather, dog’s should not be left outdoors in the cold. If you are outdoors and your dog is whining, shivering, seems anxious or becomes weak, make sure to bring them inside immediately as they may be experiencing hypothermia. If you suspect your dog is suffering from hypothermia or frostbite, please consult your veterinarian immediately.
- Avoid ice- Ice can be dangerous for you as well as your dog. Use a leash when outdoors, and avoid frozen lakes, ponds, etc, as you don’t know if it will hold your dog’s weight. Also, slipping on ice could cause injury to you or your dog.
- Take special care of seniors- It is important to be aware that not only are senior dogs less able to regulate their body temperature, but also cold weather may worsen arthritis. Furthermore, arthritic and elderly pets may have more difficulty walking on snow and ice and may be more prone to slipping and falling.
All in all, tolerance for the cold varies from dog to dog, therefore it is important to be mindful of your pet’s tolerance to the cold weather. Dogs with short coats and/or short legs may feel cold faster, but that is not to say that dogs with long and/or thick coats should be outside for long periods of time. Moreover, dogs with health issues or those that are very young or old may have a harder time regulating their body temperature and may therefore be more susceptible to the cold. You may need to shorten walks to protect your fur baby from weather-associated health risks.
Tiffany Ruiz Dasilva, VMD, cVMA
Dr. Tiffany Ruiz Dasilva is the Professional Services Veterinarian here at Wild Earth. She received her Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from Brown University, and attended veterinary school at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine. Since graduation, she has worked in general practice, on telehealth platforms, and in animal rehabilitation. She has worked tirelessly to gain expertise in the field of canine nutrition through numerous certifications and coursework, and plans to pursue her Masters in Animal Nutrition.