Winterizing your pup

by Jeanette Bourcy of Bark Avenue Dog ( 6-Mar-2012 )

     Most people prepare their homes for winter by insulating their windows, cleaning their furnaces or stocking up on wood for the fire.  They made sure their snow tires are on, and fluids are topped off in their cars... but do you no how to winterize your dog?  There are things you should be doing to prepare your furry friends for winter as well.

     The winter season brings with it a whole new set of challenges and concerns when it comes to our dogs health and grooming needs.  You would think that creatures covered in a fur coat would be supremely prepared to brave the elements.  In many ways they are, but in some areas they can use a little help from a friend!

     Feet, specifically the pads of the feet, require special attention  in the winter months.  Pooches who are not acclimated to spending long hours out doors have sensitive pads.  There are several ways to protect tender paws.  One way is to put a thin layer of petroleum jelly on their pads before venturing out.  There are also numerous products on the market made specifically for dogs.  Mushers Secrete is a popular wax - based product that helps protect the pads and prevent ice balls from forming.  Ice balls are a serious issue for paws, especially for dogs with long hair.  Those fuzzy "Grinch feet" may be cute, but they are a major problem for Fido in the winter!  Your groomer should always trim the fur around the pads of the feet and make sure no hair is hanging from the ground, to collect ice while walking.  The formation of ice balls is very painful for the dog and can cause abrasions or cuts.  Trimming your dogs nails is important all year round, but especially so in winter.  Long nails can cause the dog to splay (awkwardly spread) his feet, encouraging more ice to form between the pads.

     De-icing salt is another major issue for a dogs feet.  It causes irritation and cracking of pads.  Putting a protective product on the feet before a walk will help.  When returning home, wash the feet with warm water to remove any residue and apply a soothing product, such as snout soother to keep pads supple.  

     Another solution is to invest some time training your dog to wear booties when outdoors.  Yes they look a little silly, but with patients your dog will learn to appreciate the ultimate in foot protection!  

     Now let's take a look at another winter grooming issue.  A lot of people tend to put off grooming in the winter because they are afraid the dog will be cold if the get a haircut.  For one thing, if your dog does not live outdoors (which I hope he doesn't!), then he probably spends very little time outside in the winter months.  Secondly, letting the hair grow will result in matting if the dog isn't being brushed out completely on a daily basis (and who has time for that!?).  We see many, many dogs come in for a spring shave-down, matted to the skin.  Trust me, your dog would be much happier getting a little chilly when going outside than living with a matted coat. Tight matts pull on the skin and cause itching, irritation and even can be harboring parasites.  When in this condition, the coat must be shaved completely off.  Circulation that has been cut off is relieved, causing blood to rush back to the skin causing painful bruising.  So invest in a cute sweater or a coat for your pup, and keep up with regular grooming all year.

     Now go out and play in the snow, take walks, and enjoy the winter season with your four legged friends.  They will thank you for it! 

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