It's important to make sure your dog has been given a clean bill of health by your veterinarian. He should be up-to-date on all vaccinations and at a healthy weight to prevent any undue stress on his body so he is in the best shape possible to weather the more extreme temperatures in the winter months.
Take into consideration your dog's breed and coat type when determining their tolerance to cold weather. For instance, a Husky, who is bred to live and work in cold climates, is going to fare much better than a Pointer or Chihuahua, which are short-coated dogs.
You may need to invest in a coat or sweater for small breed dogs and breeds lacking an undercoat. This can be very helpful when trying to coax dogs outside to go for a walk or to ensure they do their business outside.
When playing or walking your dog during the winter, you may want to invest in a set of dog boots; these can save paw pads from injury when walking on ice and salt. The salt used to treat streets and sidewalks can be hazardous to paw pads, causing them to dry and crack. When treating your own sidewalks and driveways, use a de-icing product that is deemed safe for pets instead of salt.
In snow, watch your dog's reactions closely. If he picks up a paw and starts to limp, then it may mean he has snow or slush in between the pads of his feet. This can be very uncomfortable, so try and remove it from your dog's pad as quickly as possible.
Dogs should always have regular access to food and water. For dogs that are especially active or hardworking in the winter, they may require more generous portions of food during mealtime to meet the higher caloric requirements of maintaining their body weight. On the other hand, if dogs are more sedentary during the cold months, then they may require less food at each feeding. Be mindful of your dog's weight, and adjust accordingly.
The safest place for dogs is indoors. However, if your dog spends the majority of time outdoors, then ensure he has access to shelter that is warm and protects him from the wind. During mild winter days, a dog house filled with straw can suffice; however, when temperatures dip below freezing, a warmer more sheltered area is highly recommended. A garage, shed or basement can provide much needed relief from the harsh elements.
Make sure to regularly check your dog's outdoor water supply, as water will quickly freeze and prevent your dog's access. Heated water buckets are a great purchase, and can be found at most farm and garden supply stores.
Canine sports or vigorous play sessions with your dog in the snow can be fun for the entire family, but be aware that running in heavy snow is more physically taxing, so keep sessions shorter at first and slowly build up. Avoid playing on icy snow or sleeted conditions, as these can easily tear paw pads and break toenails.
The Pro Plan Performance Team, consisting of more than 15 remarkably talented canines, entertains audiences at Purina Farms with extraordinary feats of athleticism and skill. The team, which is made up primarily of rescued dogs, is living proof that with premium, high-quality nutrition, proper expert training and lots of unconditional love, any pet has the ability to achieve greatness.
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