Dog days of winter

Keep your pets safe and healthy this winter!

Dogs need extra care and attention to keep them healthy and safe in the winter months. Photo credit: ANR Communications | MSU Extension

Dogs need extra care and attention to keep them healthy and safe in the winter months. Photo credit: ANR Communications | MSU Extension

Winter—that dreaded, cold six letter word that none of us are ready for! We have already experienced very cold temperatures in Michigan and can expect more are on their way. With this type of weather, caring for our animals can prove to be a challenge, especially when temperatures dip into the single and negative digits.

Although the weather is hard on you, changes in the environment can be stressful on our animals too, no matter what their size. Dogs, in particular, need extra care and attention in the winter months. Here are a few tips to help keep man’s best friend safe this winter.

First, consider if your dog is inside or outside a majority of the time. If your dog is outside a majority of the time, pay particular attention to their hair coat. When it is very cold, your dog’s hair coat alone may not be enough to keep him warm. Provide a dry, draft free shelter for your dog as a way to help them during the cold.

 Second, make sure your dog receives the proper nutrition during the winter months. It takes more energy to stay warm when it is cold, so dogs that live outside will need to consume more food during the winter. Additionally, it is vitally important to ensure there is fresh, clean and unfrozen water available for your dog during the winter months. Investing in heated water bowls or buckets is one way to keep water readily available for your dog when it is cold.

Lastly, check your dog for frostbite—paying particular attention to their paws, the tips of their ears and the tips of their tails. The early warning signs of frostbite are firm, waxy skin and blisters. Frostbite occurs when dogs are exposed to the cold for an extended period of time. Submersion in water can also lead to frostbite, so if you have a water-loving dog, make sure they are warm and dry before they go back outside after an unexpected swim.

Winter can be a fun and exciting time for us and our pets. With these tips from Michigan State University Extension, a little extra time and effort is all it takes to keep your dog safe and healthy during the cold months.

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