Brr! It's cold out there! If you're outside for any time at all, you probably can't wait to get home to put on flannel jammies and sip hot chocolate. But what about your dog? What's keeping the cockles of his heart warm?
Certain dogs are more affected by the cold than others, particularly older pets and/or those with certain ailments, like arthritis. Here are 10 ways to keep your dog warm this winter. Buy the right breed for the climate. You can start off by picking a breed made for bitter winters, especially if you live in colder climates and expect to be outside with a dog for a significant amount of time. Dogs good for cold climates include Alaskan malamutes, Siberian huskies and chow chows. For a complete list, see the story Top Breeds for Cold Climates. Long-haired cats also handle the cold better, though all cats are better off indoors.
Keep them indoors. This is the surest way to keep your pet warm. Dogs, while they enjoy outings, are often happier indoors as well so they can dote on their owners.
Get them jackets and sweaters. If your home is a little chilly, cute jackets and sweaters can keep them warm. If they are going outside with you into the snow (dogs more than cats), it's better to choose something that has a waterproof nylon covering.
Booties. Your dog regulates his temperature through the soles of his feet (as well as his tongue, of course). When walking in the snow, booties can help keep him warm. This will also protect him from salt and other products used to melt ice. For more information on paw care, see the story Winter Skin and Paw Care.
Check the temperature before going out. In winter, as in summer, the temperature can feel worse than what the thermometer reads. Check the temperature and the wind chill factor to keep your dog from getting a chill.
Proper outdoor housing. If your dog spends a lot of his time outdoors, make sure he has the right housing. His doghouse should have a sloped roof, insulation and even a heater if he is expected to live in there. For more information on the proper doghouse, see the story How to Select or Build a Doghouse.
Bedding. His bed should be at least 3 inches off the cold floor to avoid drafts. Low platforms made of a light wood or aluminum frame with canvas stretched over it suit these pets just fine.
Provide more food. Dogs use up more calories in the winter trying to stay warm. Feed him a little more in the winter months, especially if he spends a lot of time outside.
Use a hot water bottle or snuggle disk. If your home is chilly, you can keep your pet warm by using a hot water bottle under his bed or even a snuggle disk, which is a manufactured disk that is heated in a microwave oven and can maintain heat for hours.
Don't forget the occasional special treat and the belly rub. Nothing warms your dog's heart more than special food and attention, so give him both. For special recipes, see the story Homemade Treats. The belly rub you can manage yourself.