Unlike the last two snowy years, this past Sunday was only our second big snow of the winter. With twenty degree temperatures and high winds we thought it appropriate to republish this post from previous winters.

Does my dog need a sweater?
Most dogs do not need a sweater to run out and eliminate. In fact, they are often much quicker with their business if they are dashing out in cold weather and dashing back inside. If your short haired dog is spending more than a couple minutes outdoors in temperatures below freezing, they will be more comfortable with a wrap made of fleece or similar material. Watch for signs of cold; tremors, holding up paws or shifting from one paw to another. A thick coated dog can tolerate very cold temperatures as long as he can stay dry and out of the wind.

Do I need to worry about salt on my pet’s feet?
Salt can certainly be irritating to paws. The cold wet slush created from salt on icy sidewalks is particularly caustic to skin at the margin of the pads. You can help reduce this irritation by applying a protective barrier of petroleum jelly to paws before their walks. After walking on such surfaces, rinse or wipe paws with clear water and pat dry. For dogs with long hair on their feet, ice balls can form between toes. Keeping this hair cut short is helpful or you can use the petroleum jelly to guard against ice balls as well; more messy on the long hair, but effective. Boots may also help and many designs have been created for use on dogs with varying results. Boots are especially useful if you are exercising your dog on rough surfaces.

Options for winter itching?
Low humidity and cold temperatures contribute to dry winter skin for many pets. Over-bathing can make this worse. If your pet needs a winter bath, be sure to use appropriate shampoo that will not further dry out their coat. Consider using a conditioner as well. Supplementing Omega fatty acids is often helpful. Frequent brushing will stimulate natural oils in your pets coat and keep them more comfortable. Winter rashes will need to be evaluated by your veterinarian as they may be attributed to allergies or parasites and need more specific treatment.

Janet Figarra, DVMMost dogs enjoy a good run, no matter the temperature. Watch for winter problems but don’t let the cold prevent you and your pet from burning off some pent up energy. Remember, a tired dog is a good dog!

—Janet E. Figarra, D.V.M.

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Ann Arbor Animal Hospital is a locally-owned animal hospital operating for over 90 years in Ann Arbor, MI.