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Winterizing your pet

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A coat can help short-coated dogs keep warm during the cold winter months.

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A coat can help short-coated dogs keep warm during the cold winter months. Photo Store

Winter is fast approaching, and when we’re out getting our new winter duds, let’s not forget our other family members who go out in our frigid weather as well.

Dogs have a built-in fur coat, and many do not need additional winter clothing.   Double-coated dogs like Huskies, Shepherd, and Newfies have a down-like undercoat that keeps them warm in winter and cool in summer. They "blow" this undercoat twice a year with the season change, and it is very important to get that dead coat cleaned out so that the fresh undercoat can do its job. Heavy, matted undercoat can actually make a dog colder in the winter season. The thick coat traps moisture against the skin, like wearing a wet sweater under your down jacket. A few brushing sessions with a Coat King or a trip to a good groomer can help keep your dog toasty warm in the coldest weather.

Short-coated dogs, or dogs that are groomed short, can benefit from a coat.  Sizing is generally done by measuring the number of inches from where the collar sits to the base of the tail.  Coats can be hard to fit for some dogs. Even more than people, dogs come in various shapes and sizes, so fitting "off the rack" can be a difficult task.  You can get dog coats tailored to fit, just like you would for yourself. But it does carry an added cost.

Keeping a dog’s feet warm in winter is easy with a few tips. You would think big furry paws would keep the feet warm, but they can make your dog colder in winter.  Snow and ice can get balled up in the fur, making it difficult to walk, and salt can build up as well, making them itch and lick.  Most good grooming salons will provide a "pawdicure" service for your dog where they trim out the excess hair when they trim and Dremel the nails.  

Using a pad cream is an easy way to keep the pads from cracking. Moisturizing pad cream also has a waterproofing attribute as well. Clean paws with trimmed nails are also easier for fitting boots over. Whether you use Muttluks or balloon-type Pawz boots, it is much easier to put them on if the nails are short and trimmed, and the boots will last longer without being worn away from the inside.

With a little planning, there is no reason our pets can’t enjoy winter activities just like us.

If you have an outside dog, giving them a little more insulation for the winter can be as easy as piling leaves or hay around the doghouse, or lining it with Styrofoam.  There are small heaters and heated beds that are available, be sure they are rated for outdoor use. Even a brooder chicken coop heater can add heat, if the doghouse is small, you can use small reptile infrared bulbs instead of the big heater bulbs. Just make sure to use common sense when putting heaters near flammable materials.

As well, there are heated dog water bowls that will stay ice free in the coldest temperatures, that can help stop the dog from eating snow, which can drop his core temp quickly and put him at risk of hypothermia.

Contact Jeff with your questions or ideas at aardvarkpets@shaw.ca or visit www.aardvarkpets.com

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