India is very diverse in terms of climatic conditions. We have the cool Himalayas in the north and the chilling central north and northeastern regions followed by the southern and western tropical regions. While some parts of the country are still battling with fleas and ticks in dogs, the other is struggling to keep their dogs warm in the winter.
So, since it’s December and the chill has hit hard in some parts of India, let us look at ways to take care of your dogs in winter.
What Kind Of Dog Do You Have?
Before we get into the topic we felt it is important to talk about the kind of dog you have. In places like Delhi, Punjab and Haryana the summers are as extreme as the winters. Hence some of you may have dogs that are typically made for the summer who struggle through the winter months and vice versa.
Your dog’s breed does determine the amount of care they’d need in the winter. If they have a short coat with very little body fat, they will need more precautions than a dog with a longer coat.
How To Protect Their Paws In Winter?
This is universal for all dogs. It doesn’t matter if you have a furry dog or a short-haired dog – you must provide them with proper footwear. In India, most households have marble/mosaic flooring which means that they not only have cold paws outdoors but indoors as well.
It’s so uncomfortable to walk on the cold marble. Even the thought of walking on cold marble gives us cold feet. Imagine how they feel when they have to do the same.
This is the best time to invest in good quality footwear for the outdoors. Footwear that gives them good grip, good support and is easy to put on and take off are good dog shoes.
At home, it would be best to lay carpets to protect their paws from getting cold. It’s the best time to trim their nails. Longer nails often prick into their cold and sensitive paws, causing them to get an infection.
How to keep your dog warm in the winter?
This really depends on how cold your place gets, and how equipped your dog is to handle winter.
If your dog shivers, struggles to move refuses to go for walks, it is best to invest in a good dog jacket/full coverage jumpsuit. This will keep them comfortable even during the coldest months of the year. Jumpsuits for dogs have an opening around the genital area making it easy for them to relieve themselves whenever they need to.
Even the furriest of dogs can get cold around their ears, tails and feet. The cold also makes their ears very dry, causing them to get more cold through the cracks of their skin. You can massage small amounts of coconut oil on the tips of their ears, paws and areas of their body that does not have a lot of fur. This will keep them warm and ready for the winter.
Lastly, make sure to check their paws after a walk. If your dog doesn’t tolerate footwear, you must check their paws after every walk. Small stones and pebbles hurt the foot more when it’s cold and since the skin around the paws grows hard and brittle in the winter, stones can cause friction and lead to cuts and bruises.
Make sure to wash their paws in lukewarm water and dry it thoroughly before you let them in.
Diet For Dogs in Winter
Your dog burns more calories in the winters just to keep themselves warm. So, they should ideally eat 10% more calories in the winter. However, if you live in a place with harsh winters, their activity levels also tend to reduce. In such a situation, feeding them more calories might, in fact, lead to weight gain.
Instead of increasing or decreasing their calorie intake, we would suggest that you change the type of meat they eat during the winters. You can feed them dog food that contains red meat and add a small helping of omega 3 and 6 fatty acids to their diet. This will keep their skin from crackling and give them a luscious shine.
Knowing that our dogs need more calories in the winter, we often feed them more than they need. This leads to obesity.
If your dog is losing too much weight or gaining too much weight, you should consult your doctor for a specific winter diet. Otherwise, you don’t need to make major changes to their diet in the winter.
Winter Heating Products
Most Indian households do not have central heating. We use heaters and radiators to keep ourselves warm. That’s alright if you are in the same room as your pet but please do not leave a heater unattended with your pet.
If your dog comes too near they may catch fire or get an electric shock. In short, it is a disaster waiting to happen.
Instead of heaters and radiators, you can keep them warm with blankets and hot water bags.
The Hazards Of Over Heating
Remember everything in excess will cause harm. Dogs are much more resilient to heat and cold than we are and it is fair to give them the opportunity to fight the cold by themselves.
Make changes with their bedding, clothing and food only if you notice visible changes like lethargy, lack of interest in food/water, resistance to leave the house etc. If your dog is coping well with the weather you don’t have to do anything to make them comfortable.
Common symptoms of overheating include:
- Excessive thirst
- Deep red tongue and gums
- Excessive drooling and panting
- Thicker saliva
- Rise in temperature
- Increase in heartbeat
- Nausea and vomiting
If you have a rectal thermometer, you can use it to check for a rise in temperature. Their temperature should be between 101 – 102°F. If it is any higher you must cool them either with the help of a fan or room temperature water. Do not cool them too quickly because rapid heating and cooling can pose other health risks as well.
Electrical heaters and radiators pose many threats and overheating is just one of them. This is why we strongly suggest to steer clear from them and use natural ways to keep your dog warm in the winters.
Winter months are the best months for some of us. The simple tips above will protect your dogs and ensure that they enjoy the winters as well.