As your snow globe of a yard may indicate, winter is here! And with it comes a whole new season of pet care concerns: Do dogs need to wear coats and booties? Can thick-coated dogs like Huskies live outside? How much exercise do dogs need in the winter?
All savvy pet parents know there’s plenty of well-meaning (albeit largely incorrect) advice floating around the Internet, so we’re here to separate the truth from the misconceptions. Below are five myths you may have heard about caring for dogs in winter.
Heavy-coated dogs can live outside because they'll stay warm.
Though we don't advocate keeping any dog outside all the time, winter brings especially serious concerns. Sure, your Husky or Great Pyrenees seems like she can't get enough of the falling snow and doesn't want to come inside, but every dog should have the option to come inside. No dog, even a thick-coated breed, is safe from frostbite or hypothermia. For dogs who spend a lot of time outdoors in the winter, make sure they always have fresh, unfrozen water for drinking, and talk with your veterinarian about how long your individual dog can safely play or work outside.
Dogs don't need boots because their paws can't freeze.
Wrong! Dogs do have a special circulatory system in their paws to keep them from losing heat as quickly as human feet do, but they still need protection — even just to keep those four feet from getting cut by ice and jagged snow. Dogs with furry feet that tend to collect ice and snow between the toes can also benefit from booties. And here's something you may not have thought about: Sidewalk strolls in the winter may pose a poisoning risk. Many salts and ice melters are toxic to canines, so either have your dog wear booties or rinse his feet, including between his toes, with warm water when he comes inside, so he doesn't ingest the chemicals if he licks his paws.
Small dogs can't play winter sports.
Just because your dog isn't the size of an IditarodMalamute doesn't mean he should miss out on the winter fun! Let us introduce you to the sport of skijoring, which is essentially cross-country skiing with your canine. You're on skis, propelling yourself through the snow, and your dog is out in front on a harness, attached to you by a long line, sometimes adding momentum. This sport can be a great fit for all kinds of breeds. In fact, the expert we spoke with has even taught several Pomeranians and a Shih Tzu. Just remember to check with your veterinarian before starting a new sport to ensure that your dog has no underlying medical conditions and is capable of participating in extended exercise.
It's OK to leave your dog in the car because it's not hot out.
You know the dangers of leaving dogs alone in hot cars, but what about cars that can get too cold? Letting your dog sit in the car unattended in the winter isn't a good idea. You may think you'll be only a couple of minutes, but the risk isn't worth taking. And don't think leaving the motor running makes it OK. Carbon monoxide poisoning can occur if a dog is left in a car with the motor running.
Dogs don't need to exercise in the winter.
We can't help but think this is a myth born out of convenience to we humans who don't want to venture outside when it's freezing. But we're here to tell you that your dog should not be allowed to develop an extra layer of fat this winter. Many canines are still up for their daily jaunt around the neighborhood, but if you can't bring yourself to bundle up and spend more time outdoors than the occasional potty break, we've got some other options for you. There are plenty of ways to exercise your dog's body and mind indoors, like playing tug or fetch and even creating an indoor agility course. (Ask your vet first to make sure your dog is healthy enough for brisk play.) Mealtime is also a great opportunity to get moving: Feed your dog from an interactive food puzzle or have him scavenge for his kibble instead of serving it in his usual bowl.