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Winter dog prep

Winter is coming, and with it come cold temps, ice, road chemicals, and a host of other inconveniences and potential hazards for pets. That’s why now is the perfect time to consider what special care your pooch might require to get through the colder months in safety and comfort.

Winter Paw and Pad Care

Snow, ice, and road chemical can wreak havoc with your dog’s paws and pads. In cold temps, ice can quickly accumulate both between your dog’s pads and in the fur surrounding your dog’s feet. Also, road salts and harsh chemical ice-melts can cause caustic burns if allowed to remain in contact with your dog’s skin for too long.

If you live in an area that sees significant snow or ice, be sure to check for ice buildup between your pet’s pads. And when you return home from a long hike or walk, wash your dog’s pads and feet gently with a washcloth and lukewarm water t remove any ice or rad chemicals that may have accumulated there.

Another option you may want to consider is a set of doggie-boots. Not all dogs take to wearing footgear, so there will likely be a period of acclimation. If you do plan on outfitting your pet with doggie-boots, let your dog get accustomed to wearing them around the house—before attempting an ambitious snow hike.

The American Kennel Club offers these tips for those considering doggie-boots:

  • Soles should be made of high-traction material to avoid slipping.
  • Materials should be waterproof or at least water-resistant.
  • Boots should have adjustable Velcro straps.
  • Follow size guidelines, especially when ordering online.

Suiting Up Your Pet

Since dogs already come equipped with their own fur coats, we sometimes forget that dogs are susceptible to many of the same winter dangers that humans face. First, not all breeds are naturally “weatherproofed.” While breeding in the wild helped our dogs’ ancestors safeguard themselves against the harsh winter climate, many of today’s breeds don’t have the robust build or thick coat that helped their ancestors survive. Smaller, short-haired breeds are particularly vulnerable in areas that see sub-zero temps, icy surfaces, or deep snow drifts. If your dog typically spends much of its time outdoors or accompanies you on winter hikes, you will want to consider outfitting your pet with some cold-weather gear.

A dog sweater or snow coat can help smaller or short-haired breeds retain body heat that would otherwise be lost. Today’s cold-weather clothing options for dogs are diverse and include safety features—such as brightly colored or reflective materials—which are essential if you are out with your pet after dark or in areas where hunting is permitted. You’ll also find a wide variety of materials—from fleeces to high-tech thermal fabrics—to help keep your pooch cozy.

When outfitting your dog in winter weather gear, keep these basic tips in mind:

  • Be sure all cold-weather gear fits snugly but allows freedom of movement.
  • Be sure your dog can urinate and defecate without soiling the garment.
  • Be sure your pet’s gear is visible to motorists and hunters.
  • Never leave your pet in wet gear after a walk or hike.

Outdoor Shelters for Dogs in the Winter

Some dogs spend most of their lives outdoors. If your animal winters in a doghouse or comparable shelter, you should take certain precautions against frigid temps:

  • Be sure your animal has access to thawed food and water.
  • Stock your pet’s shelter with clean, dry bedding.
  • Consider a fire-safe heating blanket or a safe.
  • Let your animal indoors when temperatures dip dangerously low.

General Winter Safety for Dogs

  • Keep your pet away from frozen ponds. Regardless f the ambient temp, ice may be too thin to support your animal’s weight. A dog submerged in sub-freezing water is at risk for death from hypothermia.
  • Don’t let your dog lick or drink road water. Standing water after a snow melt may be contaminated with road salt or ice-melt chemicals that are toxic to pets.
  • Learn the signs of frostbite in dogs. These include discoloration of the skin; skin that seems cold or brittle when touched; pain; swelling; blisters; and areas of blackened or dead skin (particularly around paws or ears).

We hope these tips help keep your pet safe and happy throughout the winter season!


Cecily Kellogg is a pet lover who definitely has crazy cat lady leanings. Her pets are all shelter rescues, including the dog, who is scared of the cats. She spent eight years working as a Veterinary Technician before becoming a writer. Today she writes all over the web, including here at Figo.

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