Keep your dog warm this winter!
A cold front is about to hit the DC-Maryland-Virginia area, bringing some snow and single-digit temperatures along with it. Dogs are able to withstand colder temperatures than we can, but their ability to regulate their temperature varies by breed, size, hair length, age, and what they're accustomed to! Your chihuahua isn't going to handle a snowstorm as easily as your neighbor's chow! And while dogs can adjust to the cold weather, it's important to remember that doing so is a gradual process. Dogs that spend most of their time in heated, indoor environments and only venture into the cold a few times each day don't have the opportunity to fully acclimate. Here are some quick tips to keep your dog comfortable in the cold.
1. Listen to your Dog
Dogs show signs of cold just like humans do. If you notice your dog shivering on walks, it's a signal that she is uncomfortable. If you have a dog that usually loves long walks and notice him pulling back towards home, don't force the walk. Let him go in and warm up.
Yup - those coats and sweaters are actually useful for dogs! If you have a northern breed (long haired dogs with thick coats of fur bred for cold climates like Huskies, Akitas, or Bernese Mountain Dogs to name a few!), your dog probably doesn't need a coat. But many short-haired dogs of small or medium build benefit from the core warmth that's retained by many sweaters and vests. Find a nice snug fit that doesn't hang off your dog but also doesn't constrict movement or breathing.
3. Pay Attention to Paws
Winter brings a number of hazards for dogs above and beyond the usual gauntlet of chicken bones on DC's sidewalks. The pavement itself can sometimes be much colder than the air outside. On that pavement, your dog may pad through snow, slip-slide on ice, or navigate harsh chemical salts. Even dogs that love frolicking in the snow can get hurt by snow and ice accumulating between their paw pads and toes. Long-haired breeds are more susceptible to this. If you notice your dog limping on a walk or favoring one paw, check their paws to brush off any snowballs or large salt crystals.
Of course, boots are an option, and if you use them, please tag @DCDogMoms in any adorable videos of your dog walking like a seal! If your dog doesn't like boots, however, there are a number of steps you can take to keep their paws healthy. We like using beeswax once a week to protect our dogs' paws from salt and other irritants on the road. Here's one option that applies quickly - a little goes a long way. When you return from a walk, use a damp cloth to clean your buddy's paws so he doesn't lick off any harsh chemicals. This is a good time to check for cracked paw pads and apply more beeswax if necessary.
Have any other cold-weather advice for the DC dogs community? Let us know in the comments!