Dogs in winter – a responsible owner’s quick guide

We’re getting into winter – cold days and dark evenings. If you’re less adventurous in your dog-walking regime, it’s hardly surprising. Dogs in winter have nice warm coats – some with extra layers, but that doesn’t mean the winter doesn’t affect our furry friends. Here then, are some ways of keeping your pet healthy at this time of year.


They need a little extra care and attention at this time of year. Road salt, grit and encrusted snow can irritate the skin between the toes. Make sure you clean and dry them well after going outside. Consider protective boots or a paw balm if your pup is particularly sensitive to the cold and wet. 


Antifreeze is a common toxin found in car screen wash and engine coolants. It also tastes sweet, so your dog may be attracted to it – just a tiny quantity can cause severe illness or even death. Be sure to clean up any spillages.


If you are feeling really cold after a few layers of clothes, chances are your pooch will too. Dogs in winter feel the cold and even suffer hypothermia and frostbite, so make sure to not exposure yours to extended periods in very cold weather. This may mean taking shorter walks than you would to at other times of the year. Do not leave him / her in the car for extended periods in cold weather.

If your pet has long hair, avoid trimming during the winter season. For shorter-haired breeds, consider a weather-proof coat.


A reflective lead or collar, a hi-visibility jacket, or LED lights can make a dog more visible at night, or in foggy or snowy weather. Good recall ability can help a dog avoid getting lost in the words on a misty dark evening. His / her microchip information might also be a saving grace, so it’s worth keeping up to date. A GPS tracking collar can also be helpful – if your dogs is the wandering type.


Dogs in winter tend to exercise less in the outdoors, and this often leads them becoming bored or frustrated. Some can suffer symptoms similar to Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). If possible, walk your dog during daylight hours of natural sunlight and keep an eye open for signs of lethargy or lack of interest in the usual games.

Having an array of toys nearby can help keep him / her mentally stimulated. If you can throw in a few extra indoor play sessions between you and your dog, then even better!


The cold, wet weather and dark evenings can make walking a little less attractive at this time of year, but who wants to deny a dog a good run? After all it’s great for his / her physical and mental wellbeing (and yours too!) Just follow a few simple rules to avoid any problems: 

  • Plan ahead and check the weather and windchill. Consider alternative routes or a shorter walk, and dress your dog appropriately, if necessary.
  • Avoid strains, sprains and other injuries by allowing a ‘warm up’ period before letting them off-lead in cold weather.
  • Beware icy surfaces, especially for puppies with poorer motor control or older dogs with arthritis and other mobility issues.
  • Stay clear of frozen ponds and lakes. Don’t be tempted to run after your dog into such areas. Call them to you instead. Having a few tasty dog treats handy can come in useful at times like this.


Adjusting the quantity you feed your dog to reflect his / her activity level can really help . Some are pretty reluctant to exercise outdoors in winter, and need fewer calories to avoid becoming overweight. Others remain active, but may need more calories to deal with the cold. Consider foods or supplements designed to support skin or joint health – these conditions often worsen in the colder months.

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