Last month, we focused on tackling your dog’s back to school blues.  Now, for many pet owners across the country, we have another change to contend with: the cold weather. We’ve compiled a quick guide to help you prepare for the chilly days ahead.  Whether it is your dog’s first winter or his tenth, we recommend taking the following steps to ensure a happy and healthy season.

dog in snowThe first step is especially key for new pet owners – know your breed.  A number of breeds are particularly well-suited to cold weather, including Huskies, Chow Chows, Saint Bernards, Akitas, German Shepherds and Golden Retrievers.  These dogs have thick coats that protect them from the cold, and they are often just as content running around outside in January as they are in July.

Other breeds with short hair, like Chihuahuas, Greyhounds and Whippets, or no hair at all, like Chinese Cresteds, are more susceptible to the cold weather.  Sweaters and coats, if they tolerate them, will help keep these breeds warm during winter walks.

The next step is protect your dog’s paws.  A dog’s paws are very sensitive to the salt used in walkways and roads during the winter.  Dogster reports that “prolonged contact with de-icers can lead to chemical burns on paws.”  Salt is also harmful if ingested, which may happen if you dog licks her paws after a walk. Furthermore, dogs can also slip on the ice and injure themselves just like their owners!

Cloth dog booties are a great way to protect your dog’s paws and prevent slipping, yet not all dogs will tolerate them.  In that case, another option is a paw wax like Musher’s Secret. Applied to the paw pads before each walk, the wax will protect against the harmful salt.  You may also want to keep a bowl of warm water by the door to wash your dog’s paws and your own shoes before stepping back inside after a walk.

For dog owners who use an “in-ground” fence system, such as a DogWatch® Hidden Fence, the next step to prepare for cold weather is a winter fence checkup.  For example, it is important to make sure driveway and walkway cuts are sealed and that no wire is exposed that might be damaged by snow plows or shovels.  Also, if you have had a fall yard clean-up or aeration, check your transmitter to make sure the wire has not been accidentally cut.  If you have questions about your DogWatch system, check the videos in the Customer Service section of the website or contact your local DogWatch Dealer.   Also, if you do not have a hidden fence but are looking to install one soon, think about scheduling an appointment in the fall, before the ground freezes.

Winter also means that your dog may be spending more time indoors.  This is especially true for the thinner coated dogs mentioned earlier, as well as puppies and elderly dogs.  You will want to make sure that they are still getting a healthy amount of exercise, though, so set aside some time for indoor play each day.

If your dog is one of the cold weather breeds mentioned earlier, they will enjoy playing outside, but it will require more energy to do so.  For these breeds, you may want to increase their food for the winter months, especially if they spend part of the day outside.

cats outdoorsFinally, we don’t want to forget about our other four-legged friends, cats.  The ASPCA recommends keeping your cat indoors during the cold weather months, as they are at greater risk of getting lost or injured.  DogWatch Hidden Fences also has indoor systems that work for both dogs and cats.  If you want to keep your cat out of specific areas of the house, or keep your dog away from the litter box, click here to learn more about our indoor options.

If your cat insists on being outside, or if you are concerned about stray cats in your area, consider providing an outdoor shelter where they can rest and be protected from the extreme cold and wind.  (See this article for more details.)

As the temperatures drop and the days grow shorter, follow these simple steps to keep your dog healthy, warm and safe.  We also encourage you to share any additional winter tips here or on our Facebook page.  Happy Fall to you all!

Dog photo by Tony the Misfit via Flickr.

Cats photo by Haburashiko via Flickr.