Widget wears his winter clothes.
Winter is fast approaching, which means it’s time to bring out the heavy coats, rain jackets, boots and warm blankets. But what about our pets? Most people, especially in temperate California, think that our pets don’t need anything extra during the winter, that their fur and instincts are enough to protect them. But this is often not the case.
For dogs, it’s important to consider their coat length, size and breed mix. My previous dog, Digby, was a 65-pound Cattle Dog mix with thick fur and seemed impervious to the cold and rain. However, my current dog, Bowie, is a 17-pound Italian Greyhound mix with short fur and shivers with the slightest breeze. He is sad even in the rain.
I quickly learned that Bowie needs some protection if he’s going on our winter hikes with me, so now he sports a sweater or a raincoat. By the way, it doesn’t have to be the kind your grandmother loved to dress her little Maltese in—they can be quite sporty. Many have reflective material and dry quickly.
If you love taking your dog on the snow with you, check out these paws.
“Check your dog’s paws frequently for signs of cold weather injury or damage, such as cracked paw pads or bleeding,” says the American Veterinary Medical Association. “During a walk, sudden lameness can be caused by an injury or ice build-up between his toes. You can trim the hair between your dog’s toes to prevent ice balls from accumulating. can reduce the chances.”
If your dog will tolerate them, consider a pair of boots for those sensitive paws.
Just as human skin is prone to dry and itchy skin in cold weather, dog skin is also prone to itchy skin in winter. Keep winter baths to a minimum and consider adding a small dose of olive oil or coconut oil to your dog’s food. This can help moisturize their skin.
Apart from comfort, you also need to keep your pet’s safety in mind. Most people think that it is dangerous to leave a dog in a hot car, but did you know that it is also dangerous to leave them in the cold? In cold weather, cars can act like refrigerators and pets can die of hypothermia.
Although cats fare slightly better than dogs in the cold, given their ability to crawl into warm, enclosed spaces, this same skill can sometimes get them into trouble. Every winter, we receive reports of cats trapped in garages or sheds. They can also take shelter under a vehicle, which can be dangerous and even fatal. Experts recommend giving your car’s hood a few taps before starting your engine just in case a cat finds its way under it.
While it’s technically legal to let dogs outside as long as they have some coverage from the elements, Marine Humane strongly encourages people to keep their pets indoors. The basic rule of thumb is that if it’s too cool for you, it’s too cool for them.
Worried about your pets going crazy if you keep them inside? Well, just like kids, it’s about introducing some indoor games. It goes without saying that the retrieval game should be out. Or that a cat’s paw may not be as enchanting as an outdoor lizard.
There are plenty of options for winterizing your pet, including jackets, sweaters and toys. So have fun with your pets this winter but play it safe.
Lisa Bloch is Marin Humane’s Marketing and Communications Director, contributes articles to Tails of Marin and welcomes animal-related questions and stories about people and animals in our community. go to marinehumane.org, Twitter.com/marinhumaneOr email firstname.lastname@example.org.