The changing seasons often affect our health, whether allergies, stiff joints, or seasonal affective disorder. While you may not realize it, dogs also experience challenges transitioning to and living in the colder months. Some get allergies, stiffness, and anxiety as the weather changes and our work patterns change. Here are five tips to help your dog thrive during winter.
Seasonal transitions for your pet
Now that the days are shorter and cooler, you may notice a change in your dog’s energy level.
This might mean taking shorter walks or feeding your dog more to help him bulk up for winter if you have a dog.
Join online forums to connect with other owners and dog trainers during these cooler months.
In warmer months, you may have noticed your dog eats less. In high temperatures, mammals naturally become less active and need fewer calories.
However, winter can trigger the opposite reaction. When the days shorten and the temperature drops, your dog likely will be hungrier.
Monitor your dog’s Body Condition Score (BCS) to ensure he doesn’t get fat.
While weight is a factor, there’s more nuance to determining your dog’s BCS, a number assigned to your pet based on fat storage on a few key locations on their body. The scale ranges from 1 to 9, with 1 severely underweight and 9 obese.
An ideal score is around 4 or 5. Depending on your dog’s score, you may need to adjust how much you feed your dog.
While sneezing, an itchy nose, and a sore throat often indicate seasonal allergies in humans, your pets may experience a slightly different set of symptoms. Itchy skin and ear infections are common for dogs, but they may also experience red, swollen eyes and fits of sneezing.
If you notice your dog shows allergies, go to the vet for a consultation. Depending on the severity of your dog’s allergies, your vet may give your dog injections to help alleviate the symptoms. If it’s mild, you can opt for over-the-counter medication such as antihistamines.
Some animals experience pain and discomfort during the colder months, from joint stiffness to sore or cracked paws. Older pets often struggle with stairs.
If you have a large dog or have lifting restrictions, assisting your senior friend can be challenging. Setting up a lower-level living area for your senior pet is one possible solution. Still, if you’re a renter, you might even consider moving to a place better suited to meeting your furry family member’s needs. Many pet-friendly apartments are available, so do some research using ApartmentList Denver to find the perfect solution.
In cooler, damper weather, barometric pressure drops, which can cause joint inflammation. If your pet is moving slowly or is sluggish when getting up from a nap, this could be due to inflammation. Per TopDog Health & Rehabilitation, the best solution is to keep your dog moving; exercise can help ease joint stiffness.
Another source of pain for dogs can originate from their paws. Cold and dry temperatures can cause your dog’s paws to crack, so be sure to check them daily. If you notice your dog’s paws are cracked, keep them clean to avoid infection, and use a healing, pet-safe balm to moisturize and seal the cracked pads. Another option, protect your dog’s paws with dog boots.
An anxious pet can be a big challenge for families, primarily if the anxiety is caused by separation. For some owners, the beginning of the new year meant going back to school or work. If this is the case, be sure to test out your pet’s ability to cope when left alone. The Farmer’s Dog points out that many dogs experience separation anxiety, and it’s vital to know whether your dog is experiencing panic while you’re away.
Unfortunately, there’s not a quick fix to separation anxiety. Dog trainer Julie Naismith notes one proven method that works is called sub-threshold training. Essentially, you teach your dog to cope with absences by practicing graduated departures, never allowing your dog to get to panic mode. Keeping your dog below their anxiety threshold will help them recognize that the sky will not fall every time you step out the door.
Working with a dog trainer is another great way to deal with this, as is taking advantage of doggie daycare or pet sitting services in your area.
Do some checking before you choose a doggy daycare or a trainer. As with any professional service, to find the best match for your needs, be sure to interview candidates you’re considering and check their references.
Many people experience seasonal affective disorder (SAD) when the seasons change because of the reduction in Vitamin D and shorter days.
Pets can also experience mood swings with season changes, whether it’s lacking energy or just general malaise.
Dogs also often mirror their owners, so if you experience SAD, it could be rubbing off on your dog. Take good care of your mental health to help elevate your pet’s mood.
Whenever possible, grab your reliable harness and leash (especially if you have a dog that likes to flee) and head outdoors for a bit of exercise and sunshine, both of which can help increase serotonin levels.
Thrive during winter
Helping your dog thrive during winter is an essential part of being a good dog owner. Paying attention to your pet’s physical and mental state will go a long way toward keeping him in the best possible health.
During cold weather, look for signs of weight change, discomfort, or any change in your dog’s emotional state. The cooler months are upon us, but you can ensure they are enjoyable for you and your furry friend.
Tyler Evans has never met a dog he didn’t like. He’s a proud dog papa to two German Shepherd rescues and the creator of Dog Zasters. Tyler created the website to showcase the funny, sometimes messy, side of being a dog parent. He hopes the website will bring joy to those who visit it and encourage people to welcome the love of a dog into their lives.