Winter Care Tips For Your Dog

This is a writing sample from Scripted writer Amanda Jeffery

Looking after your dog in a harsh winter climate could be crucial to your dog's well being. There are many different ways that we can make their lives a little bit easier when it's blizzarding outside.

Cold winters, especially in the northern parts of Canada and the US, can mean ice, snow, cold temperatures, and lots of terrible chemicals on the roads. To make driving safe, municipalities often salt and sand the road. People will use salt and sand on their sidewalks, too, especially if they are on a school route or other busy street.

Just like people, your dogs need exercise all year round. It's important to try to get them out daily, especially if they require leash training. Chances are they love it a lot more than we do, too. Your puppy looks forward to finding out what the neighborhood dogs have been up to.

Here are some common winter health conditions to lookout for and the preventative measures we can take:

Damage To The Pads Of Dog's Feet

The most common solution for ice in the winter months is salt, sand or some other gritty substance. Sometimes there may be chemicals like magnesium chloride or calcium chloride. These chemicals can be hard on your pup's paws.

Not only can these chemicals cause the skin on your dog's paw to peel, they may get cuts from the ice, grit or have pebbles lodged between their toes. If you're taking your dog on a long walk, any kind of injury to the paw can become serious.


Dog Boots — While it might seem ridiculous at first, dog boots are the best way to prevent your pet's paws from coming into contact with harsh chemicals and sharp ice.

There are many different sizes and varieties for your dog. Some have rubber soles to help your dog grip the ground better. Reflective striping on others will help keep you visible in the evenings when it stays darker for longer. There are even waterproof shoes for those spring days when it's slushy.

Paw Wax — If you are only intending to take Fido out until he does his business, a pet wax might be the solution.

The wax is applied to the bottom of your pet's paws just before you head out the door. The wax will create a barrier between the paw and the cold pavement you're walking on. This will protect them from some elements of the cold.

However, the wax will eventually wear off, especially if you're walking through snowbanks or over roads covered with sand.

Keep Their Feet Clean — One cost saving prevention method is washing your dog's feet.

As soon as you get home from a walk, grab a towel and gently wipe their feet. This will remove any salt, sand or grit. If you're concerned about chemicals you can wet the towel and use a small amount of shampoo to wash them.

Doing this will allow your dog's feet to recover between each walk, hopefully preventing any injuries.

Hypothermia, Frost Bite or Extreme Shivering

Some dog breeds are bred for colder climates. St. Bernards, Huskies and other long-coated dogs will do very well in the winter.

Smaller dogs with shorter coats will struggle more. They will be less willing to go to the bathroom outside and are not meant to be left outside for an extended period of time.


Coats Or Sweaters — One quick fix to a cold dog is to give them a nice, cozy sweater to keep them warm when they're outside. You can even purchase them a cute jacket to wear out.

If you're trying to save money, you can always crochet or knit your dog a sweater. There are even free patterns you can use.

A sweater or coat works much the same on your dog as it does on you. It keeps their body heat in and thus they stay warmer. When looking at coats, check to see the temperatures they are good for. When making your own, check to see what weight of yarn would keep them the warmest.

Keep in mind, the longer your dog's fur is, the lighter the jacket will need to be.

Allow Them Into Your Home — Even dogs with fur coats that are meant to withstand cold weather may have to come in sometimes. In some places, the temperatures can get to -40 and leaving your dogs outside may leave them at risk for hypothermia.

Cordon off a small space in your home that your pet can stay in. Some people will use their heated garage, others will let their pets into the porch. Either way, just give them a place to stay warm on the coldest nights.

Heated Doghouse — If your dog has a heated place they can escape to during the winter, they will be happier and healthier.

A heated doghouse is a great solution for hardy animals. You can use strong insulation, a heating pad, a light bulb or a heater. Just keep in mind that if you're using electrical components, they will need to be installed correctly. You don't want a bored puppy to start chewing on cords.

You'll also want to check periodically that everything is still working. If the power goes out one night or there is a short, your pup will be left out in the cold.

Dry, Irritated Skin

Winter is often cold and can sometimes be dry, especially in climates that are away from large bodies of water. Sometimes your dog's skin my get dry and itchy. If they're scratching all the time they can cause injury. Your dog's skin health is a big deal.

There is also a higher chance they will develop dry flaky skin or dandruff.


Wash Your Dog Less Often — When washing your animal you are removing natural oils along with the scent of whatever they rolled in. Removing the natural oils will make their skin more prone to dryness.

Sometimes washing your pet is unavoidable. In these cases, try to use a shampoo with fewer perfumes in it. Perfumes will dry skin out faster.

It would also help to talk to your vet or someone at your local pet store that can recommend a good shampoo to use. There may be a moisturizing product you can use after you bathe.

Dry Your Pets Off When You Get Home — Towel drying your pup when you walk in the door can go a long way toward keeping their skin healthy.

It might sound counter intuitive, but leaving your pet's sweat to air dry can cause further drying of their skin. There is salt in sweat and this can dry the skin out even more, causing irritation.

Keep a clean, dry towel ready by the door so you can dry them off as soon as they get in the house.

Keep Your Home Humid — Many humans suffer from dry skin during the winter months, your pets will, too. One of the most common solutions is adjusting the humidity levels in your home.

There are several ways this can be accomplished.

Some people will have humidifiers installed in their house to control the humidity year-round. Others will purchase a smaller humidifier that you fill with water.

If you need to save the money you can also boil a pot of water on the stove. Just make sure you don't boil it all the way down or you will wreck your pot.

Animal care is a year round task, and sometimes we overlook simple things. If your pet does develop any skin issues or paw issues, make sure to get the advice of your vet as soon as you can. Simple home care recipes may be used in some cases, but more serious problems might require medical attention.

Written by:

Amanda Jeffery
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I'm a writer in the pets, parenting, book, safety, journalism, and mental health niches. I've been writing for 15 years, but over 2 years professionally. I'm a mom of two teenage boys, a wife and owner of two rescued beagles. In my spare time I like to read, write creatively or cross stitch.
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