Living With Animals: Winter Worryland

By Hope Bidegainberry on January 10, 2020

There is little doubt the holiday season has left you in need of a vacation. I mean, all the shopping, the eating, the napping between shopping and eating. It has been hell, and you deserve a rest! For many that means a call into work claiming you are sick, and a drive up to the mountains. Those of us who live in this Mediterranean climate may forget, but if you and your dog are heading to the snow then you need to winterize your pooch. 

That built-in fur coat will help, but even the fluffiest dogs who spend 99% of their time in the Bay Area will not have developed the full coat found on dogs exposed to more significant seasonal weather. And in really cold weather even that full-coated dog is still at risk of everything from cracked paws to potentially fatal hypothermia. A good starting point: if you feel the need of a coat, your dog does too. Happily for fashion-conscious Fidos, fiber- and down-filled dog vests are readily available, but remember those only protect what they cover. Tail tips, ear flaps and other sensitive and uncovered areas can suffer from frostbite, so limit time out of doors as the thermometer drops. This advice is even more critical for puppies and older animals.

Consider booties, which provide not only warmth but increased traction. They also protect paws from ice as well as salts and chemicals used to control ice (problematic both on the skin and if ingested). Don’t expect your dog to instantly enjoy or even tolerate these fashion accessories. Brief practice dress-up sessions with lots of loving (hugs, praise, yummies) is always the ticket. If booties just aren’t going to be tolerated (dogs often find them more off-putting than coats) there are several commercially available wax-like ointments designed for cold weather that get rubbed directly onto a dog’s feet. Trim short any long hair found on toes and in between the dogs’ pads (those leathery undersides of feet) to avoid the painful and potentially damaging ice balls which form when exposed to cold and wet. One last tip: anytime you and your animals are away from home, make sure pets wear identification which includes your cell number and/or local contact.  

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