How to Keep Your Dog Safe Warm and Dry in the Winter

This article provides tips on how to keep your dog safe, warm and dry in the winter.

It may almost be spring, but the recent cold temperatures are a good reminder of how important it is to keep your dog safe in the winter. I have a golden retriever and, although he has a thick coat, he isn't impervious to colder temperatures. Although his coat serves as good protection against the elements, the pads of his paws don't hold up well against the ice that forms out of packed down snow.

Here are a few tips to keep your furry friends safe this season:

Coats and booties can help your pet stay warm. In particular, short-haired or elderly dogs benefit from wearing a coat or sweater. Now, in all honesty, you would not catch my dog playing dead in a doggie sweater or anything of the sort, but the truth is those funny outfits can serve an important function and help make the elements a bit more bearable for your four-legged friends.

Clip the fur between toe pads to reduce the amount of snow that collects between toes. This is a good tip year-round really, as that little bit of fur also is a magnet for the dust and pollen of warmer months. Keeping it trimmed makes for a cleaner house and less allergies.

Remember to be very careful with sick or older dogs, since they are more sensitive to cold weather. Alternatively, puppies do not tolerate the cold as well as adult dogs and may be difficult to housebreak during the winter.

Many de-icing and ice-melting products are toxic. Wipe down paws every time your dog comes inside, not just for the sake of keeping the floor muddy paw free, but also to eliminate the chance of your dog accidentally ingesting any dangerous toxins. The last thing you want is your dog licking de-icing agent off his paws.

As is the case with humans, even brief exposure to sub-zero temperatures can lead to frostbite of the paws, nose or ears. Frost-bitten skin appears red, gray or whitish and may peel off. Prevent frostbite by removing ice and snow from paws and fur right away.

More dogs are reported lost during the winter than any other season as canines often lose their scent in cold weather and can become lost. Decreased daylight does not help either. Please be sure your pet's identification is up to date.

Thoroughly clean up any spills from your vehicle. Antifreeze, coolant, and windshield wiper all have a very appealing taste to pets but are usually lethal to animals when ingested.

To help protect dry, sensitive paws, try coating them with a bit of cooking spray before walks in very cold weather. I haven't tried this myself, but I've met a few guys at the dog park who really swear by it.

Finally, just because it's cold outside doesn't mean your dog won't get dehydrated. Just as in the summer, make sure your dog gets a big drink of water after exercising outside.

Follow these tips and you'll keep your dog safe for another season!