Pet Care Basics, Skin Problem Resources

Cold Weather Pet Safety: Cats and Dogs in Winter

How can I protect my pet in the winter? As we get into the heart of winter, sometimes it’s good to remind ourselves of some of the problems our pets face during the cold winter months. Some dogs and cats need minimal care, while others don’t fare well at all. Cold weather pet safety means taking some preventive measures to make winter easier for both you and your pets! Here are some cold weather pet tips:

Why is My Dog Shedding in Winter

For pets that spend more time inside during the winter, the indoor heat can take its toll on their skin and coat. It causes moisture loss and dry skin, resulting in uncomfortable itching. Their winter coat becomes too much for them, and they start shedding to get comfortable again – the reason why many people feel their pet has been shedding all winter.

Coat strippers help remove the dead hair coat without damaging the remaining coat. They’re excellent for double-coated dogs with winter coats that want to mat. A dematting comb will remove dead hair mats with little pulling of the skin. The result is a fluffed-up coat that keeps your dog warm outside and breathes on the inside, which helps your pet feel more comfortable in all temperatures.

Once the dead hair is removed, bathing helps clean the skin and replace the lost oils and moisture. Many people forget that some dogs are itchy just from the winter grime of everyday living, so bathing is important for healthy breathing skin. Vet Basics® Oatmeal Protein Shampoo replaces winter moisture loss while cleaning the winter grime from the skin and coat. Be sure to dilute the shampoo according to label directions. Carefully rinse out all the shampoo to remove any residue. Bathe and rinse your dog with lukewarm, not hot water. Avoid using human shampoos.

You know your dog’s coat: if you feel you have an extra dry coat, use a cream rinse such as Fresh ‘N Clean Crème Rinse every two weeks to rejuvenate the coat. Cream rinses help the coat repel moisture and ice, so they’re great for dogs that spend time outside. They’re most helpful when used in the cold of winter and in the hot summer sun.

After a great cleansing bath, use a high speed blower to remove the loosened dead coat. Doing this will significantly reduce shedding and the vacuuming you need to do. If you don’t own a high speed blower, some dog facilities and car washes (yes, really between the car wash bays) have these available to use for a small fee.

Nail Care for Dogs

Rough ground and surfaces help wear down your pet’s nails naturally, so it’s easy to rely on nature to trim your pet’s nails during the summer. However, nail trimming is often forgotten during the winter, which results in long nails that tend to break or crack, causing pain.

Foot restraint is a submissive problem for pets, and many are uncomfortable with it. Before you trim for the first time, rub and massage your pet’s feet when he is relaxed. This will help him realize that it’s okay to let you restrain his feet. Start slow until you and your pet are comfortable. The Oster® Gentle Paws Nail Trimmer is perfect for the novice nail trimmer – it’s essentially a powered emery board. It won’t let the nail get too short, and dogs like the sanding effect, which won’t twist the nail like clipping sometimes does. Before touching the nail, rub the leg and paw with the trimmer running so they get used to the quiet sound. Once they calm down, you can trim one nail at a time while speaking softly – they should respond in kind. Distracting your pet with food treats while doing nail care can also help them accept this process.

Ear Care for Dogs and Cats

Cold weather can affect dogs ears. Ears build up more waxy material in the winter because the skin is trying to replace the lost oils. Clean the ear canal at least twice a month to avoid issues. Check the ear canal and put a small amount of Vet Basics® Ear Cleanser, in the ear, rub gently, then wipe with a soft tissue or cotton ball. If the ear is infected or irritated, clean the ear several times, then daily until resolved. Most ear infections can be cured with daily cleaning if they are caught early.

Skin and Coat Care for Dogs

Some dogs also need inside-out support for skin and coat care. Fatty acid supplements such as Doc Roy’s®Derma Coat Plus are helpful for preventing cracking and replacing the oils of the skin from the inside out. Omega 3 has anti-inflammatory effects that help with joint and pad trauma, while Omega 6 will keep the tissue soft and the pad pliable. Both keep trauma, ulcer and deep pad cracks in check.

What Can I Do For My Dogs Paws in The Winter

The footpad is actually a huge, thick callus that heals quickly with care. Salt and snow melts dry out the pad, causing cracking and licking. When caring for dog paws in winter, be sure to wash winter ice melt off your dog’s feet and apply a moisturizer. If repair is needed, use Musher’s Secret to moisturize and heal the damage. House dogs usually need boots or socks to prevent excessive licking and chewing of the pad. Children’s socks work, but they can be difficult to manage on hardwood floors.

Dogs Feet Cold Weather

Dog feet problems are common in winter and surprisingly, most are arthritis-driven. Sore joints will cause limping and poor foot placement, which increases trauma to a pad. Oral glucosamine and chondroitin, such as Doc Roy’s® Aches Away, will increase the joint fluid, easing fatigue and trauma. The result is a pad and joint system that will give to the concussion trauma of running. Pain-free running will help your dog place his feet correctly, which decreases the wear on the joints.

Winter Pet Safety

These problems could happen to anyone. Preventing winter issues on the outside and the inside can make winter easier for you and your pets. Following these cold weather pet tips can keep your pet healthy and feeling good all winter long.

If you have more questions on how to keep pets safe in cold weather or protecting dog paws in winter, call us at 800.786.4751.

Article originally written by Donald Bramlage, DVM, Revival’s Former Director of Veterinary Services. This article has been updated/reviewed by Dr. Greer.

Written by: Marty Greer, DVM

Director of Veterinary Services

Marty Greer, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, has 40+ years’ experience in veterinary medicine, with special interests in canine reproduction and pediatrics. She received her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from Iowa State University in 1981. She’s served as Revival’s Director of Veterinary Services since 2019. In 2023, Dr. Greer was named the Westminster Kennel Club Veterinarian of the Year.

If you need help, call us at 800.786.4751.