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The holidays are behind us and January has arrived ushering in a brand new year, and with it comes some very cold, winter days. So, as humans, we know that when the temperature plummets it’s time to bring out the heavy winter gear including warm boots, hats and mitts to prepare and enjoy the new season.

But as we get ourselves ready to enjoy the great outdoors we should give a lot of consideration to our best four legged friend. First, we should start thinking of timing the walks with our pets so we avoid the coldest times of the day, namely early in the morning and late in the evening.

Naturally your dog will still have to go out for his regular bathroom breaks, but when the weather is cold make sure that the breaks are shorter than usual and never leave your pet unattended outside for a long period of time. If you have a puppy and this is his first winter, or even older pups who are used to relaxing in a warm house, they need to take shorter walks until they get acclimatized to the colder days.

Young pups, senior dogs, and those breeds with short coats would benefit from wearing a dog coat or warm sweater when it’s cold outside. If your dog breed is one that is sensitive to the colder temperatures, you may be wise to invest in an insulated and water proof coat. It’s also important to protect your pup’s paws. Making sure that the fur is well trimmed on the paws to prevent a buildup of ice and snow on the feet will help. You may also want to apply a coat of Vaseline or better yet, apply a commercial cream such as Bag Balm to help protect the paws. If you have a pup with sensitive feet or a small or toy breed, they would also benefit from a set of booties. Putting cream or booties on your pet’s paws will help protect them from ice and snow build up and help protect from salt on sidewalks.

When you do venture out with your four legged friend on very cold and blustery days, remember that if you are getting cold and uncomfortable, your pup probably is as well, and it’s a good idea to call it a day and head back indoors. If you have been out in the cold for an extended period, be certain to watch your pet for signs of frostbite or even hypothermia. If your pet does happen to get frost bite you will notice that his skin is either grey in colour or very pale and may feel hard. If your pet has very cold ears or paws or seems to be shivering excessively and seems abnormally quiet or lethargic, he may be suffering from hypothermia. In either case, keep your pet warm and contact your vet for proper medical attention.

Another thing we must watch out for during the winter months is Antifreeze. Be sure that if you store any in your home or garage that it is out of reach of your pets and children and is tightly sealed. Even if you are vigilant about your storage and use of antifreeze, your pet could still come in contact with it on the street or in a neighbour’s driveway. Antifreeze has a sweet taste which seems to be very appealing to dogs, so be very careful of where they walk or lick. The substance is quite toxic and even a very small amount can cause problems with the kidneys which can be life threatening.

Having said that, after every walk during the winter months, it’s a good habit to always have a towel ready when you get home to wipe your pet’s paws. This will remove any snow and ice that may be stuck on the paws, and to remove any salt or other substances that your pet may have stepped on.

When the snow starts to fly, and especially when we get large dumps of the white stuff, be sure to keep the roof of your home as clear as possible. If the temperature rises during the day or the sun shines, large hunks of snow or icicles may fall and possibly hit your pet while in the yard. Also, be sure that the snow in your yard never gets piled up too high against the fence. This could pose a problem as your little friend may be able to get over the fence and escape.

Most pups love to run and play in the snow and you should enjoy this with them, but always be sure that your pet doesn’t “eat” too much snow. If he likes to snack on snow, make sure that it’s “clean” and not tainted with rock salt or anti-freeze. Also, if you are sledding or using a toboggan with your children and your pet, be sure that he is not running loose so he doesn’t accidently get hit by a fast-moving sled on a hill.

Winter can be a beautiful season to be outside and enjoy many fun activities. They should be entertaining for you, your family and your pup but always remember to keep your furry friend safe and warm. So, let it snow and have fun!

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