January is National Walk Your Dog Month and what better time to kick start your New Year’s resolution to get more exercise, while keeping your companion pet healthy too. We all know the benefits of walking for humans and the same goes for your pet. The winter is also a time to consider your pet’s diet and to take certain safety precautions. Here are ten tips to keep in mind to keep your dog at his/her best in the cold weather months ahead:
- A walk with your dog can be the best form of exercise for both his/her physical and mental health. Consider a walk in the woods during the winter months. It will not only protect you from wind, but the smells, sights and sounds can be different and at the same time, mentally stimulating.
- Dogs and cats should be kept indoors when temperatures drop. So when your dog goes outdoors for a walk, make sure he is acclimated and doesn’t stay out too long.
- If your dog doesn’t enjoy a winter walk, it may just be a matter of keeping him/her warm. Invest in a coat or sweater, especially for short haired breeds and puppies. (Fleece works well!)
- Watch for signs of frostbite on ears, tail and footpads that may show up with the appearance of pale, glossy or white skin.
- Salt and chemicals used to treat snow and ice can aggravate the pads of your dog’s feet. Be sure to wipe all paws with a damp cloth before your pet licks them and irritates his/her mouth.
- Purchase some canine booties to protect your dog’s paws, which also work to keep them warm.
- Consider what you are feeding your dog. It takes more energy in the winter to keep body temperature regulated; so additional calories are often necessary, especially if your dog spends a lot of time outside. On the other hand, if your dog is carrying some extra pounds, reducing the amount of food is appropriate, as is making sure he gets some exercise.
- Don’t forget to provide your dog with adequate hydration. Dogs can dehydrate just as quickly in the winter as the summer. If your dog has an outdoor water bowl, remember to break any ice that may form on the top.
- Keep your furry friend away from the snow. It is not a substitute for fresh water and can be dangerous…especially because of the threat of consuming antifreeze, which is extremely toxic and can be fatal for dogs even in small amounts.
- Watch out for antifreeze or other chemicals in your driveway or garage that could be accidentally ingested.
- It is important to dry your dog if he gets wet from snow or rain. You may towel-dry or use a blow dryer and be sure to clean its paws too and prevent cuts or cracked pads; a little petroleum jelly is helpful to soften the pads.
By following these tips you will ensure that your canine buddy stays warm, safe and healthy this winter. And don’t underestimate the power that your walking buddy has in helping you to stay healthy and fit this winter too!