Dogs are like people and if you’re feeling cold and uncomfortable inside or outdoors on windy, wet and cold winter days there’s every chance your furry companion will feel the same way.
In Australia dogs are generally happy staying outdoors unless the temperature drops to below 10-15 degrees or the dog is a puppy, senior, small or short haired breed that is better suited to inside living.
One of the first signs your dog is cold is shivering and tucking his or her limbs into the torso. Thankfully, there are some simple ways to keep your dog happy, warm, well-fed and content in the winter months.
A winter coat or jumper
Even dogs with thick fur to keep them warm appreciate an extra layer when they live outside or go for walks in cold weather.
A good coat or jumper should cover your dog from the neck to the base of the tail and protect the belly. Make sure it’s a good, firm fit and doesn’t restrict any movement.
When you arrive home to a heated indoor environment, remove the coat or jumper immediately so your dog doesn’t overheat.
Extra blanket for warmth
A few adjustments to your furry friend’s bed will keep him or her warm and protected from the cold winter weather.
Simply add an extra blanket or towel to create a cosy, safe sleeping environment. Older dogs will benefit from a heating pad to gently warm the bed as they sleep.
If possible, raise your dog’s bed off the ground and away from drafts and any cold, hard surfaces. Don’t raise the bed too high for older dogs that experience stiff joints and may have difficulty to get moving after resting.
The great outdoors
If your dog lives outside an appropriate shelter is essential to protect him or her from rain, wind, frost and other weather conditions. There’s a great range of dog kennels available from the RSPCA. Be sure to choose a kennel that is the right size and
Place the kennel in an elevated position that is protected from the elements and line the kennel with clean, dry blankets or towels that are washed and replaced on a regular basis.
Dog food for winter
The amount and type of food you feed your dog in winter depends on the size, age and breed of your dog. However, dogs of all sizes generally exercise less in cold weather but burn more calories to keep their body temperature at the same level.
Research indicates that younger dog that are more active and dogs that live outside in winter need more dietary fat, which may require changing their diet to a food higher in fat during winter months.
Older dogs are not as energetic so it’s difficult for them to lose weight and should be fed food that has lots of nutrients and vitamins and a low fat content.
Indoor dog play time
Some pet owners prefer to stay indoors during winter, watching TV and relaxing on the couch under a warm blanket, however all dogs need regular exercise and boredom busting stimulation to live a happy, healthy life.
Playing indoor games with a soft toy or a ball, building an obstacle course, playing hide and seek with treats, teaching your dog new tricks, and interactive activities will get the blood moving and strengthen your bond with your dog.
You and your pet can brave the cold, put on warm winter coats and head out for a brisk walk that will make you both feel invigorated and refreshed.
Try driving to a nearby park or an outdoor venue that you and your dog can explore and there’s lots of dog friendly cafes and hotels you can enjoy a drink and meal with your furry companion.
Fire and heater safety
Dogs often seek out heaters and fires to keep warm during colder weather. Be wary of your pet sitting too close as they can fall asleep and end up with dry, scaly skin or in extreme cases burns.
Caring for senior dogs
A drop in temperature can aggravate stiff, arthritic joints in older dogs and it’s important to keep up a healthy exercise regime that best suits and age and health of your senior dog.
Walks should be no longer than 20 minutes over flat, even ground. Regular exercise will promote good circulation and muscle tone and while remaining sedentary will only worsen your pet’s joint pain.
If you notice your pet is showing signs of discomfort associated with arthritis, you should take them to their vet for a check-up. Signs of pain or discomfort include stiffness, chewing or licking certain joints, difficulty walking up or down stairs, eating slowly and noticeable behavioural changes.
A dog is a wonderful companion to snuggle up and stay warm with this winter, and lots of cuddles will always keep the winter blues at bay!