Do you have a dog winter safety check list handy? We do! Dogs are more resistant to cold weather because of their fur, right? WRONG!!!!! With terms like bomb cyclone infiltrating news feeds, dog moms and dog dads wonder how to keep dogs warm in cold temperatures. Thankfully, we have over two decades experience on this topic AND we’ve put some products and theories to the test.
Rule of Dog Parenting: If it is too cold for you, it is too cold for dogs.
This post contains affiliate links for which I earn a small income if you click through and purchase something on the links. Please see my disclosure policy for details.
There are many myths out there about dogs and winter coats. Dogs and cats get cold, particularly short-haired breeds, senior citizens, puppies, and pets with medical conditions. Look for an insulated sweater with a turtleneck, that covers the belly, and that allows for protection from neck to tip of tail.
Just because a dog has a fur coat does not mean it protects them from the elements. Some breeds can withstand the colder temperatures, as my blogging pal Jen Costello, of My Brown Newfies explains in her recent blog post on the topic: Newfies in the Winter.
Sizing is an important factor in dog outerwear. Keep in mind that many stores will not allow coats to be returned, so measure your dog adequately before making any parka purchases. Here’s how: With the dog standing up, run a tape measure from the base of the dog’s neck (where the collar would sit) and to the base of the tail. The majority of dog clothes use this measurement. Knowing your dog’s chest measurement will ensure a good fit, too.
You can also have a custom coat made, as we did from coats Made by De. De Hufford started her own company of making dog jackets and coats as an alternative to the big stores, where the sizes are Small, Medium and Large and you can’t find “dachshund” or “bulldog” or “skinny mutt” anywhere. Over the years, she expanded the line to include dog cooling coats, dog raincoats, dog britches and belly bands, dog specialty wear and dog pajamas.
What I like about De’s custom coats is that the outside is waterproof ripstop nylon with Windro fleece lining for warmth, Velcro neck if desired, tummy panel Velcro, and you can mix and match options like D ring, fleece turtleneck or snood, and more.
Some dogs were bred with a thicker or a more dense coat, including the Idiatrod-savvy Siberian Husky. But other bigger breeds might benefit from a coat, so assess each individual dog. Greyhounds are more sensitive to the colder weather, for example, so this particular breed could use the extra layering.
Here’s our dog, Dexter, in his custom coat. If you want something custom and with specifications to keep your dog warm and protected, stop by and see Coats Made By De.
Chemicals can be absorbed through a dog’s sensitive pads. In turn, those chemicals (such as what’s found in antifreeze) can be licked by dogs and cause severe problems. I use Musher’s Secret Pet Paw Protection Wax on my dog’s feet and have given this product as a stocking stuffer to dog-loving friends and family in the past. Some people opt for dog booties, which is a smart idea in the winter months. Wash dog pads off thoroughly after a walk, perhaps using some warm water and a washcloth to melt any ice balls that may have formed on the bottom of their feet.
BONUS: I am not one to be easily sold on claims of a product being a miracle, but this one sets the bar high. Dr. Harvey’s Organic First Aid Healing Cream for Dogs is a combination of healing herbs in a base of organic shea butter. This cream is used for minor skin irritations, hot spots, rashes, cuts, sunburn and itching. It is great for human bug bites, too! I use it on Dexter’s paw pads: They are oh so smooth and soft now. Toss this in your dog’s first aid bag right away.
Some of our favorite dog paw recommendations for coverage like boots include:
A common myth in among dog parents is that a dog’s paws need no protection; after all, they’ve been walking around without socks or shoes for thousands of years, right? True, but a dog’s paws do need protection. There’s a way to treat the feet and a multitude of dog paw problems that can ensue if you don’t.So massage your dog’s feet: the tops of the feet, pet the legs, and do so in a positive and reinforcing way. Some dogs don’t like their feet touched, and if this is the case with your dog, don’t scold him or get upset. Don’t bug him.
We even use Pawz boots in the summer on hot pavement, as you can see. A little tip we learned from our pal Rosalyn Acero over at Golden Woofs is to poke small holes into the Pawz so the paws can breathe.
Read all about dog paw protection here.
Dog Winter Weight
Not all dogs are created equally and not all dogs should gain weight to “stay warm.” An overweight dog is more prone to heart disease, cancers, diabetes and a host of ailments, not to mention a decrease in metabolism. Dogs should stay active with indoor games, brisk walks, and activities to stimulate their bodies and minds all year long, despite the season.
Generally speaking, dogs (and people) are more sedentary in colder weather. If a dog is very active and a high performer, then talk to your dog’s vet about boosting his nutritional requirements through diet. However, most dogs, do not benefit from additional weight gain. In general, consider that each pound of weight on a dog is the equivalent of five to seven pounds on a person. Feed as you normally would but watch the snacks and increase the indoor activity.
Here are some low calorie snack options for dogs in the winter (and year round):
Winter blahs don’t just affect people: Pets get them, too! Dogs can become irritable, depressed, sleepy, and generally bored in the winter months due to lack of activity
The following activities are designed for dogs who are overall healthy. If your dog is immobile or has movement or joint issues, then you should modify or avoid some of these. Use your own best judgment in how much your dog can do and be sure to have fun. These games to keep dogs active indoors are also designed to enhance the human-animal bond. (Plus if you travel, many of these activities can be done in a hotel room, too):
Here are 8 Ways to Keep Dogs Active Indoors and some of our favorite indoor games below:
Dogs need extra moisture in the winter months due to:
• Forced heat indoors
• Lowered humidity inside
• Dry heat
• Cold temps outdoors
As a Cocker Mom of nearly 25 years, I know the importance of essential fatty acids to support a dog’s skin hydration. A lot of pet parents may not realize that good health starts from the inside out, but that the outside coat and skin are imperative to proper health, too.
I brush my dog regularly and dogs do need baths in the winter, but often times the frequency can be lessened. Here are a few of our favorite bath time products and dog skin care products:
Vitamins and supplements are part of the daily rituals for millions of people, but should dogs take them? In some and many cases, yes. In fact, my dog takes certain supplements. Diligent dog parents need to understand what their dog needs first and foremost and why.
We’ve blogged extensively on this topic and here’s our take on the Reality of Dog Vitamins and Supplements along with some of our picks for winter and year round care for dogs:
Indoor Warmth and Drafts
As the temperatures drop, the thermostat rises indoors. The usage of an electric heater or fireplace should be done with caution. Tails, fur and paws that come too close to flames, hot surfaces or the coils of an electric heater can be damaged, and an unattended heater could be knocked over by a curious pet. To make sure your dog is warm indoors, and that fire hazards are diminished, never leave a heater on without someone in attendance.
Check drafty windows and door jambs and keep dog beds away from drafts.
Final Facts and Dog Winter Warnings
Provide your dog with plenty of fresh water to stay hydrated and to prevent its skin from flaking and itching in the dry weather.
A humidifier can help dogs and people during cooped up winter months. Dry air in the home can make pets itchier, cause dry noses, upper respiratory infections, more dander, and dry throats. Consider a humidifier, talk to the veterinarian about skin conditioners and fatty acid supplements for healthy skin.
Dry eyes can happen in the colder months, too, and not just to people, but to our dogs. Since the air outside is very dry and indoors, heaters are pumping out dry air, eye dryness can occur. Talk to your vet about eye treatments like artificial tears or dog safe lubricants.
Not all ice melts are created equal and just because it says ‘pet safe’ does not mean it is 100 percent safe for pets. Pet safe means safer for pets, but not 100 percent. Wash your dog’s paws if he doesn’t wear boots in the winter outside. Ice, salt, and chemicals can burn their feet. Here is the ice melter we use: Safe Paw Non-Toxic Ice Melter Pet Safe, 8 lbs. 3 oz.
Car coolant and antifreeze chemicals are both lethal to animals, so clean up any spills or leaks immediately. Don’t let dogs lick off the ground during walks, as you have no idea what they may be inadvertently ingesting.
Stay warm and have a safe winter!
Note: This post contains affiliate links from Amazon, meaning if you click on a link above and then make a purchase, Fidose of Reality will receive a small commission with no extra cost to you. You help us keep the site up and running and in exchange, you get to shop for items you love. Wags!