Winter can be a dangerous time for even the most pampered pooch. Everything from antifreeze, sidewalk salt, and common holiday plants like mistletoe, holly and poinsettias can be toxic to dogs. Outdoor dogs are at risk of hypothermia and frostbite, and just like humans, dog’s immune systems can be compromised during the harsh cold months. But luckily as owners, there is a lot that we as can do to make our four-footed friends more comfortable.
To combat the cracked and sore paws caused by walking in salt and snow, wash paws off with warm water after walks. If dogs develop ice balls between their toes, remove them and consider trimming the hair in this area. You can apply bag balm to cracked paws and paw wax before walks to protect the pads. You can also try this simple DIY Dog Skin Soother by mixing 2 tsp of coconut oil with 10 drops of lavender essential oil. You can also make a soothing herbal infusion to spray on your dog from herbs such as chamomile, calendula, nettle, and oats. Don't forget Wound Wonder is terrific on your cracked puppy paws as well as human cracked fingers!
To keep your dogs healthy and comfortable when it’s cold, do not leave your dog outdoors unsupervised for extended periods of time. Do not shave your dog’s coat as this affects their ability to properly insulate. Dogs that don’t have an undercoat may need the extra protection of a coat and booties. You may get made fun of, but your pooch with thank you. If you get them to wear the booties, that is! Particularly sensitive dogs include many toy breeds and breeds with wiry coats. Be sure to keep walks short, and increase the frequency rather than the length.
What you feed your dog in the winter is also extremely important. During the cold months the body uses up more energy keeping warm on walks and out in the yard. Make sure you give your dog more calories and protein depending on how active they are. Also note that snow is not an alternative to water, and in addition to water your dog could benefit from electrolytes during the winter. To make your own Electrolyte Solution, mix 1 quart of water with 1 tablespoon of raw honey or unrefined sugar and 1 teaspoon table salt. This solution only keeps in the fridge for one day, but warm to room temperature before offering free choice. Make sure to ask your vet before making any changes to your dog’s diet. If you would like to add herbs to your dog’s diet to improve their immune system, replenish their skin, and increase circulation, consider herbs such as calendula, echinacea, cayenne, garlic, ginger, and St. John’s wort. Dr. Pitcairn's Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs & Cats is a wonderful resource for home grown options.
Remember that your pets experience many of the same things that you experience during the winter, so treat them with some extra TLC and you should both be raring to go as soon as spring is here!
Contributed by Margot Pomeroy. © Una Biologicals ®,2015