Fall’s changing colors is the first sign that snow and cold weather are right around the corner.  For many people and their pets, winter is a time for fun outdoor activities such as sledding, skiing, and building snowmen.  However, puppies require extra care during their first winter, and the steps for preparing your puppy for cold weather are described below.

Warm Coat

A young puppy’s fur will be different from that of an adult dog, typically more sparse and less insulating.  Unless your puppy is older and a northern breed, such as a Siberian Husky, chances are that he or she will need extra protection from harsh temperatures.  A warm coat is necessary.  Look for one that is made of water resistant material and does not restrict your dog’s movement.

Booties

Your puppy’s paw pads will be especially sensitive to snow, ice, and salt until proper calluses are developed.  Booties will help your dog be more comfortable when the weather turns cold, and can be purchased at any pet store.

Paw Balm

Dry air, artificial heat, and snow can all cause dry, cracked paws.  Moisturizing your pet’s feet with paw balm will keep your puppy comfortable in the middle of winter when conditions are most miserable.  In addition, weatherproofing salves can be used if your puppy does not take well to booties.  These salves provide a waterproof barrier on your dog’s paw pads, protecting them from ice, salt, and extreme temperatures.

Dietary Adjustments

The healthier your dog’s natural coat, the better protected he or she will be when the weather is cold.  Fatty acid supplements that contain Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids promote a healthy skin and coat, and can be fed in the winter. In addition, unless your pet spends a lot of time outside in the cold weather, he or she may require less food.  Dogs tend to sleep more and exercise less during the cold months, which increases their risk for becoming overweight.  Monitor your pet’s body condition throughout the winter and decrease portion sizes as necessary.  On the other hand, if your pet spends a lot of time outdoors, he or she may require larger portion sizes to make up for the extra energy consumed in keeping warm.

Careful Grooming

Another way to counteract dry, dull skin is to brush your pet’s coat often to stimulate blood circulation and remove dead fur.  However, a dog’s coat can become static-charged due to the dry indoor air, resulting in static shocks and discomfort.  A common remedy is to rub a dryer sheet on your pet in order to diffuse the static, but this method can expose a puppy’s sensitive skin to irritating fragrances.  Instead, reduce static by rubbing your pet’s fur with the broad side of a wire clothing hanger before brushing.

Cold Weather Acclimation

Finally, it is very important that you acclimate your pet slowly to the cold weather.  Once the temperatures start to drop, gradually increase the amount of time your pet spends outdoors, starting with 3 – 5 minutes.  Offer your pet frequent indoor breaks in order to warm up, and never allow your puppy to stay outside for more than 20 – 30 minutes at a time when temperatures dip below freezing.

Is there anything else we missed off the list? Let us know!