By Dawn Tucker, DVM, Animal Emergency and Critical Care
We’ve already been experiencing some colder temperatures. Many nights have been below freezing. This poses a special dilemma to keeping our furry friends healthy and fit during the winter months. Exercise is a very important component for our pets physical and psychological health.
If you’re like many and have a bigger dog with thick hair coat things may not change much. These pets can still have the run of the back yard provided they have a wind break, a source of water that won’t freeze, and a place to stay dry.
But for those of you who have short coated breeds, dogs that spend the majority of their time in temperature controlled environments, or have health conditions which may make it more difficult for them to regulate their body temperature, it is important to take some precautions when exercising.
Most pets will enjoy a run or stroll on a brisk day. However, keep in mind that your pets feet, legs, and under belly may pick up chemicals used to prevent ice. Be sure to clean feet and hair coat free of debris and substances which can be harmful, even toxic, such as antifreeze. Using booties is a good way to protect paws. If your pet has short hair, consider having them wear a coat, which should be washed frequently.
Pets with health issues can have difficulty regulating their temperature in extreme outdoor weather, we recommend mind stimulating games and exercise indoors. There are many ways to stimulate your pets mind and body without venturing into the winter weather. Offer meals in a feeding toy, run stairs, play indoor fetch, or teach a new trick. There are countless tricks and training lessons you can do from the comfort of your own home. Start with a simple dog trick like “stay” or “shake,” and work up to something more complicated like “roll over.” These tricks will result in good behavior and help you and your dog bond. Keep the training sessions short. This will ensure it stays fun for everyone.