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How to protect your dog from harsh winter weather

Make sure there's no snow or ice balls on your pet's paws after taking them out for a walk, one veterinarian suggested. Also check to see if their paw pads are cracked or red between the toes. (Getty Images/iStockphoto/gurinaleksandr)

WASHINGTON — The arrival of winter weather means dog owners need to be more considerate of their special pals, whose shoe and coat collections aren’t as extensive.

In particular, that applies when they have to go outside to do their business, said one veterinarian. Ice, snow and salt can be a painful combination.

“First and foremost take a look at those feet” after coming back inside, Dr. Katy Nelson told WTOP’s Debra Feinstein and Mark Lewis.

Make sure there’s no snow or iceballs on them, she suggested. Also check to see if their paw pads are cracked or red between the toes. You might even want to massage some coconut oil on them occasionally to keep them adequately moisturized.

“Just like our hands can crack and get super-dry, so can their feet,” she said.

Another thing to keep in mind: Keep the bathing as infrequent as possible in the cold-weather months. “Washing them too much removes and strips those protective oils from their skin,” said Nelson, who suggests spot cleaning with a wet wipe or some dry shampoo instead.

And don’t even think about shaving them. If it’s messy or matted, clip it a bit but keep in mind their coats are there for a reason.

“If you do need to do a full bath, ask your veterinarian for a good moisturizing shampoo and probably a cream rinse after,” she said.

In addition, don’t just assume that they need outerwear like you do. Dogs that are engineered for cold weather, like Huskies or Akitas, will be just fine. A thinner-coated pup could probably use the insulation, though: “You might want to invest in a nice little coat, especially a weather-proof one for days like [Thursday],” Nelson said.

Finally, be mindful of how active they are (or aren’t) in relation to the weather. If they’re active, they might need more calories to burn. If they’re little couch potatoes, however, they’ll probably need to eat a bit less, she said.

(Good luck explaining that to your lazy dog, by the way, when they want some pumpkin pie.)


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