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DOG / health & care

Happy & Healthy

Keeping Your Pet Healthy During the Winter

Whether it's curling up by the fire, brewing hot beverages, or bundling up in a soft sweater, seasonal comforts help us through brisk autumn days and cold winter nights. Throw in flu season with holiday chaos, and it's a wonder we make it through the winter at all. Just as we have learned how to take extra steps to stay healthy in the winter, similar care is needed to ensure the comfort and health of our pets, too.

Why pets may need winter sweaters

Ever wondered about the terrier in the sweater vest or the collie in the coat? They can serve as more than just expressions of affection from a pet parent. Regardless of the season, animals need time outdoors. While dogs and cats have fur, they are warm-blooded and not immune to temperature changes. This means they can benefit from an extra layer for warmth. If it's especially cold where you live, look to your pet to gauge comfort levels and plan time to dress them accordingly.

Keeping Your Pet Healthy During Winter, Pomeranian
 
Keeping Your Pet Healthy During Winter, labrador
 

How to add extra layers

A few factors can determine how to dress your pet for winter play. If your pet is small and short-haired, he's likely sensitive to the cold. The same goes for older pets and those that may be frail or ill. You can't take your pet's temperature by touching her nose, but you can feel her body to see if she's shivering. Shivers mean sweaters - especially if you live in a cold climate (the short Southern California "winter" is not necessarily sweater weather).
Larger and long-haired pets can usually tolerate colder weather for longer periods of time, and even though you might bundle up, your pet has a long, thick coat prepared for long winter walks. Just pay attention to walking over ice and snow: paws do get cold and sharp objects may be hiding under the powder. For dogs, there are a number of styles of dog sweaters and coats to choose from. For help finding the right size sweater or coat for your dog, look at PetSmart's Dog Apparel Sizing Guide.

Skin-saving solutions

When the bite of winter kicks in, many pets get dry skin. A few simple steps can help prevent and treat this condition.
First, bathe them as seldom as possible. When you do need to bathe them, try using a pet-friendly moisturizing shampoo to help keep their skin healthy and pH-balanced. Human shampoos, which are harsh and acidic on their skin, can cause dryness and itchiness. Brush your dog or cat to remove hair and dander.
After a jaunt in the snow or splashing in puddles, be sure to dry your pet with towels or a hair dryer. Although your pet shakes off excess water from his or her coat, they can still be damp.

Don’t forget nutrition

You can also help your pet eat right. Quality nutrition rich in vitamin E, copper zinc and fatty acids can promote shiny, healthy coats along with a range of other health benefits. You can also serve your pet warm drinking water in winter. Also, check outdoor water bowls to make sure they don’t freeze. Consult your veterinarian about how to add vitamins and fatty acids to your pet’s food to see how you can support your pet’s unique needs.
Now that you’re on track to keep your pet healthy, learn ways to keep your pet safe from holiday hazards like decorations, plants, food and more.