How to Winterize Your Dog: Advice From a Vet
You might assume your dog is reasonably well-prepared for winter. She has a built-in fur coat for starters, and then there's that ineffable animal instinct, some sort of inherited resistance to extremes ... right?
Not really. "It's definitely breed-specific, for sure," says Camille DeClementi, a veterinarian and senior director of animal health services at the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. "Dogs like Newfoundlands that were bred to be outside with huge, furry coats are going to be a lot more tolerant of cold than greyhounds and chihuahuas."
Even the burliest of dogs, however, is still at risk for frostbite, hypothermia, and cracked and irritated paws.
So what is a pet owner to do? "If you're cold and you need a coat, it's time to think about one for your dog, too," DeClementi says. For warnings on winter hazards (and ways to mitigate them), read on.
Dogs "can actually die of hypothermia, or get frostbite on the tips of their ears," says DeClementi. The obvious solution is to ensure that your dog is never outside long enough for that to happen. But even for short trips, "they can wear a coat when they go for walks outside, which will keep their core temperature warm."
Quilted Dog Vest, Ralph Lauren Home
Stylish, lightweight, and machine-washable, this polyester-fill vest is more for brisk days than subzero temperatures. ($95, ralphlauren.com)
Featherlite Packable Down Dog Coat, Hartman & Rose
With an 80/20 down 660 fill, this lightweight, wind- and water-resistant coat is warm, comfortable, and perfect for even the coldest days. ($50, hartmanandrose.com)
"Jack Frost" Tailored Dog Coat, Biscotto
When no price is too high for your fur baby, the "Jack Frost" is hand-tailored to your dog's measurements in Italy and comes in three models, one more violently priced than the next: pure wool, at 1,490 euros ($1,634); wool/silk or wool/ cashmere at 1,550 euros; and pure cashmere, at 1,990 euros. (Woof.) (theclassydog.com or biscotto-italy.it)
City sidewalks, which get loaded with salt and sand to protect human pedestrians, can be risky for dogs in winter. "It depends on what kind of salt is used," says DeClementi, who notes there are some pet-friendly ice melters, like urea. "But in the city, you won't know which salt is used," she says. "And salt irritates the paws, and if it's ingested in small amounts [i.e., if the dog licks its paws after walking in salt], it could cause an upset stomach." Mitigation options are threefold: booties, jelly or wax coating, or simply washing your dog's paws thoroughly after every walk. "My dogs refuse to wear booties, so I just rinse their feet," DeClementi says.
Summit Trex boots, Ruffwear
A textured sole allows for traction, while the integrated gaiters lock out dirt, moisture, and debris. ($59.95 for a set of four, ruffwear.com)
Dog Boots, Pawz
Reusable, waterproof, and biodegradable rubber dog booties are basically sturdy balloons for your dog's paws. ($18 for a 12-pack, pawzdogboots.com)
Invisible Dog Boots Wax-Based Cream, Musher's Secret
A nontoxic wax that's rubbed on and in-between a dog's paws, used initially in Canada for sledding dogs. ($19.99, musherssecret.net)
"It's always important," says DeClementi, "but in the winter, the longer they stay outside, the more at risk they are. So it's critically important that they can be found and brought home quickly."
Traditional Swiss Collar, Schaussi's Alpen Schatz
Nothing says winter weather-ready like a hefty Swiss collar, and nothing says "easy to find in the snow" like a golden metallic cow. (Small collars start at $85, alpenschatz.com)
Dip-Dyed Collar, Wagwear
This cotton, dip-dyed collar wears beautifully; a funky alternative to your usual monochrome nylon options. ($24, wagwear.com)
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