We all know that the summer months call for plenty of water to avoid your dog over-heating. Just the same, in winter time you need to ensure that they are warm, happy and healthy – no matter how cold it gets.
Here are some key things to consider when caring for your dog over the winter.
Winter coats and dark evenings
Your dog will have shed their lighter summer coat and grown a thicker, heavier winter coat to protect them in the colder months. The thicker and heavier the coat, the more likely it is to become matted or knotted with seed heads and snow balls - and potentially harbour fleas. Give your dog regular grooming sessions during the winter, making sure that you use a comb as well as a brush to get right down to the skin.
Some dogs are less hardy than others, and may need a little extra protection to keep warm, particularly short-haired older dogs. If your dog shivers outside and seems less keen to go out than usual, think about getting them their own winter coat for extra warmth. A high visibility one is a good idea, as is a glow collar to aid visibility.
At this time of the year many of us will be walking our dogs in dark afternoons and evenings, so take extra care to keep them on a lead when near traffic. Wear reflective clothing and carry a torch.
Just like us, many dogs love playing in the snow - rolling and bouncing excitedly through the transformed landscape. But snowfall can be disorientating for dogs as it affects their keen sense of smell, so they may easily lose your scent and end up getting lost when out on a walk. Ensure your dog’s microchip has your current address details your dog should always wear an ID tag with her name and your phone number.
Ice, snow, slush and the grit or chemicals used to clear the roads and pavements of ice can all take their toll on your dog’s paws. Dry paws and legs thoroughly after a walk, and keep a lookout for any sore patches, cracks or cuts.
Don’t let your dog walk on any frozen water on ponds, canals, rivers or lakes - which may look like normal ground to your pet - as the ice may not be thick enough to take their weight. If the worst happens and your dog does fall through ice into water, don’t go in after them - instead you need to encourage your pet to swim back to you.
Antifreeze used to deal with iced windscreens and car engines is highly toxic to dogs and can cause kidney failure. It also has a sweet smell and taste, meaning that your dog will be more inclined to lap it up. Never leave open containers of antifreeze out and clean up spills near your car quickly.
Winter comfort food
Your dog’s body fat is essential for protecting them from the cold and maintaining their core body temperature during the winter months. Dogs tend to weigh slightly more during the winter than in the summer, but in the colder months your dog (and you!) may be less active, making it easier to gain weight. You may need to adjust your dog’s food intake, depending on their activity level. Don’t forget to keep your dog hydrated, and make sure clean, fresh water is always available.
You can find out more about what you should be feeding your dog, including a menu tailored specifically to your dog’s breed, age and activity level at What Should I Feed My Dog?
Christmas is a time of happiness for the whole family, including your beloved pet. But you do need to stay alert to potential seasonal dangers for your pooch.
Foods to avoid
Grapes, raisins, chocolate (the darker the chocolate, the more it contains a chemical called theobromine which is poisonous to dogs), macadamia nuts and alcohol should all be kept out of your dog’s reach.
Rich, salty, fatty leftovers should not be given to your dog. A festive over-indulgence could lead to your dog suffering a bout of vomiting and diarrhoea.
And don’t give the dog a bone - turkey, goose and chicken bones are likely to splinter, with the potential to cause internal damage.
If you do want to give your dog a Christmas treat, Pedigree® Treats offer a responsible way to do this. Remember though that only 10% of your dog’s daily calories should come from treats and other foods that aren’t 100% Complete.
Decorations to avoid
Festive plants that come indoors at this time of the year - holly, mistletoe, Poinsettia and Christmas tree needles - can all give your dog an upset stomach.
Keep Christmas tree lights, tinsel and ornaments above your dog’s height and never leave him in the Christmas tree room alone. Ingesting one of these could cause a gastric rupture.
When opening presents, keep your dog in another room. Take particular care with batteries, silica gel sachets, wrapping paper and ribbons and small toy parts, all of which could cause an obstruction in your dog’s gut.
A safe haven and some routine
In all the flurry of Christmas preparations and having guests over, try to stick to a routine with your dog of regular walks. You’ll feel better for some activity and fresh air too!
When you have visitors and if there is a chance of Christmas or New Year fireworks, make sure they have a calm space away from the hustle and bustle with a warm, comfy bed or even a dog crate or cardboard box lined with blankets and chew toys within reach.
Take care of your dog and they’re sure to have fun this season.