In the winter, there’s a general rule that if it’s too cold for you to be outside, it’s too cold for your pet, too. Contrary to what many people think, dogs are not conditioned to be outdoors for long periods of time despite their furry coats. Temperatures aside, there are some other factors to you should be aware of in order to keep your pooch healthy and happy all winter long.

1. Bundle Them Up

Even if your dog has a thick, plush coat, a winter jacket can make potty time more tolerable — especially if the temperatures drop below 20 degrees Fahrenheit. Make sure the jacket is snug — not tight — and covers the belly, too. If you have a male dog, make sure it doesn’t urinate on the bottom strap on its stomach as this can prompt frostbite.

2. Protect Their Paws

It’s important that you wipe off your dog’s paws (between the toes, too) after jaunts outdoors. The salt can cause irritation, but it can also be fatal — depending on the composition — if consumed by licking. Opt for a pet-friendly ice melt but note that no product is 100% safe.

3. Monitor An Elderly Pet

Senior pets need a little extra TLC during the winter months. Since their joints can become stiff from the cold, talk to your vet about adding glucosamine and chondroitin to their diet to keep joints lubricated. For this same reason, it’s important that your dog gets regularly movement — being sedentary will only cause them more pain. When it’s time to relax, a self-warming orthopedic bed can do wonders. Take your dog for a checkup during the winter months. Despite the fact that you may be doing everything necessary to keep your pooch comfortable, he/she may still be experiencing discomfort due to the weather.

4. Put An Extra Blanket In Their Bed

Since dogs (and cats) have higher resting body temperatures, make sure you add an extra blanket in their beds during the winter months. Try to avoid placing a bed on a cold, hard floor and/or in a drafty area.

5. Bathe As Little As Possible

While it’s always a good idea to keep your dog clean, bathing strips the skin of essential, natural oils which can lead to dry, flaky skin. If bathing can’t be avoided, ask your vet for a recommendation for a hydrating shampoo. It’s also not a bad idea to keep your home humidified, if possible.

6. Prevent poisoning

Antifreeze poisoning kills approximately 10,000 pets each year. Be cognizant of drippings or spills from your car or others as you take your dog for a walk. Even small amounts of antifreeze can be deadly. This should be a general rule for all household chemicals and medications. While you may already be aware that chocolate can be potentially fatal, onions and xylitol (a sugar substitute) should also be placed out of harm’s way.

7. Monitor Their Diet

Talk to your vet about your dog’s nutritional needs. While you don’t want your pet to develop a weight problem, feeding it a bit more in the wintertime can help build an insulation layer to keep it from being as cold. Also make sure your pooch has access to fresh water to help with hydration levels and to keep skin less dry.

8. Hold Off On Shaving

Avoid shaving your dog in the winter as the hair will provide more warmth. If you have a long-haired dog, trim as needed to minimize ice, salt, and chemicals.

Animals can’t speak for themselves, so keep an eye out for signs of frostbite or hypothermia. To avoid this all together, only take your dog outside for necessary bathroom breaks. After taking a break indoors during the winter, you and your furry friend will be ready for a burst of activity come springtime.

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