Now that winter is officially here, it is time to talk about winter safety for your dog. Listed here are tips for taking care of your pet in cold, snowy, and icy conditions.

Cold Protection

Even though your dog sports a fur coat year-round, he or she is not fully protected from harsh winter conditions. Unless your dog is a double-coated breed, he or she would likely appreciate extra warmth in extreme temperatures. If your pet is a senior, a puppy, or a short-haired breed then clothing is a must. Depending on your dog’s individual needs, a sweater, field jacket, winter coat, or a jumpsuit may be appropriate. For dogs with sensitive paws, boots or paw ointments are also beneficial.

Protect your Dog from Salt

Salt is necessary in icy regions in order to keep road and walkways safe. However, most commercial salt products can be irritating to dogs if either a piece of salt becomes embedded in the paw pad, or if the salt is transferred to the dog’s mouth via licking. One way to combat salt is to provide your dog with boots or rubber foot coverings. Alternatively, you can wipe your dog’s paws with a warm wash cloth after he or she returns from an outdoor excursion. For personal driveway use, consider purchasing pet-friendly salt that will not cause irritation.

Indoor Exercise

If your dog requires more exercise than can be safely performed outdoors, take your pet’s workout inside. There are many ways to mentally and physically engage your pet when the weather is cold. For highly energetic breeds, consider treadmill training. Other options include setting up a make-shift agility course in an open area or playing games such as “hide and go treat,” where snacks are hidden throughout the house for your dog to find.

Winter Diet

Your dog’s diet should be adjusted in the winter depending on activity level. If your dog is less active when the weather grows colder and spends the majority of its time napping by the fireplace, cut back the amount of food at mealtime. On the other hand, if your dog spends a lot of time outdoors in cold temperatures, it is important to increase the amount of food he or she receives, up to 30%. Use your pet’s body condition and veterinarian as a guide.

Use Outdoor Time Wisely

Most dogs can withstand short periods of time outdoors in cold temperatures. Instead of simply allowing your dog into the yard to potty, use outdoor time wisely by sneaking in a quick walk around the block or play session in order to provide necessary socialization and exercise.

Bring Pets Inside

While it is never recommended to leave your pets outside unattended, this rule especially holds true during the wintertime. As a general rule of thumb, if it is too cold for you, it is too cold for your dogs. Outdoor dogs require a shelter with four walls, water that will not freeze, and bedding that is warm and dry. Even if these requirements are met, pets are safest indoors when temperatures dip below freezing.