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Veröffentlicht: 27.10.2019

Dogs in the winter

Dogs in the winter

While us humans rejoice when winter finally arrives, happy that we can enjoy its many attractions, our four-legged friends may often find it to be particularly difficult and not really very joyful.

Winter brings with it many problems, both for dogs themselves and their owners, who want what is best for their pets. We are often faced with a dilemma – putting on a dog jacket and being laughed at by ignorant people, or risking an upper respiratory tract infection, and when we pass by farm buildings and detached houses, we often witness leashed animals engaged in a sad struggle to find a place which offers at least a little warmth and protection from the cold. Here are some common sense tips on how to make winter a happy and comfortable time for your dog.

A WINTER WALK

The first issue we need to tackle is reducing the difference in temperature between the house and the outdoors, as rapid temperature changes may lead to hypothermia and infections. To prevent this, try not to overheat your house and place your dog's bed far from any heat sources (radiators, fireplace) while also avoiding exposing your pet to drafts and the cold seeping in under the door. You can observe your dog to find out if it is cold when it is asleep. If your dog is always curled up when it sleeps (never sleeping on its side or stretching), it is likely that it is experiencing some discomfort related to low temperature. A dog never really falls asleep in this state – it is only napping and not truly resting because of the cold.

Keeping a medium temperature in the room where your dog sleeps also stimulates the growth of its undercoat; if the temperature is too high, the dog's body receives a signal that it is too hot to wear a winter coat.

You should also gradually acclimate your dog to decreasing temperatures; hold off on putting on a jacket to stimulate faster undercoat growth, which is a natural insulation layer, and to strengthen the dog's immune system. When exactly your dog should start wearing a jacket primarily depends on the type of coat it has. If your dog's coat is sparse or it does not have an undercoat, it will be much more vulnerable to lower temperatures and will require an additional layer even when it is only a few degrees Celsius below zero. In general, the thicker the undercoat, the lower the temperature a dog can withstand. Also, older dogs, whose immune system is weaker, are more vulnerable than young and healthy animals.


When choosing a dog jacket, pick one which is functional and not only pretty. A dog jacket should protect the animal from moisture and wind, and prevent heat loss with the help of a polar fleece lining, for example. We do not recommend using wool sweaters as they easily soak up moisture from melting snow, completely negating their purpose. How you put on the jacket is also important – the less invasive it is, the better your dog will tolerate it.


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Another important aspect is that your dog's paws may grow cold during walks, as well as being affected by the salt compounds used for clearing snow, which irritate the pads and can often lead to painful inflammations, cracks and wounds. If you notice alarming changes in the paws or that your pet is raising them to avoid touching the ground, consider using dog boots, which are currently a widely available product – just make sure that the soles have anti-slip properties. However, due to the discomfort associated with wearing them, boots should only be worn by animals whose paws or claws are wounded, or by animals which are particularly vulnerable to cold temperatures.

If this does not apply to your dog, it is enough to use a special salve before every walk, which serves as a protective layer that can be washed off after returning home to get rid of any salt – remember to dry their paws after washing.

Another important matter you should pay attention to on a walk is not allowing your dog to eat snow. The significant temperature difference may cause an inflammation of the throat and an infection.

You should also avoid using metal collars and chains as they can become very cold around your dog's neck.

Also, remember to adjust the time spent outdoors to the weather and your pet's resilience.


WINTER MENU

Winter is not a good time for a weight loss diet. This is especially true for dogs which spend entire days outdoors and live in pens or kennels. An additional layer of fat provides great insulation, and calorie-dense meals are necessary to produce the heat needed by the body to function. In addition to increasing the amount of calories by adding oils or meat, it is also recommended that your dog receives a warm meal every day. If your dog only eats dry food, it is a good idea to soak it in warm water or broth. It is recommended to add more immunity-inducing vitamins and minerals to your dog's meals, as well as feeding it food that facilitates the growth of hair, which is a natural barrier against cold. It is also necessary to ensure that your dog has access to fresh water – paradoxically, many dogs die from dehydration during winter months as the water in their bowl simply freezes.


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WINTER IN THE KENNEL

Dogs which live outdoors are undoubtedly hit the hardest by winter. Make sure that their kennel is properly insulated using special construction materials, and ensure that the roof does not leak. The best bedding materials for dogs are straw and an insulation mattress; textiles such as blankets and polar fleece tend to quickly absorb moisture, and may even freeze in low temperatures as a result, rendering them ineffective. Remember that a dog needs a lot of space to satisfy its need for exercise and to be able to naturally produce enough body heat.


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However, if the temperature drops low enough, even the most resilient and best-adapted dogs will be affected by inclement weather, which means that they will need to be offered warm shelter inside the garage or house!

WINTER HYGIENE

If possible, limit the amount of baths your dog takes. Using soap damages the natural fat layer in the dog's skin, destroying its natural insulation and making it vulnerable to infections. If you need to bathe your dog, make sure to do it in the evening after the last walk of the day so that the animal does not have to go out into the cold with wet hair, and to allow the animal's temperature to stabilise after the bath. If your dog's coat is rough and requires trimming, it is a good idea to let it grow out during the winter and cut it only after the temperature increases.

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