The weather is beginning to change. The nights are chillier and chillier. These are the signals that it is time to wrap the outside faucets and check the antifreeze levels in the car. One thing, however, that often gets overlooked is the family dog.  Whether you have an indoor dog or an outdoor dog, prepping for winter is important for them to fare comfortably and safely until the spring thaw.

The fur coat a dog sports does not mean there is nothing else required to prepare them for the weather extremes of a winter season.  Some pups, especially short, smooth coated breeds like beagles and Chihuahuas, need a sweater or jacket. Dogs can suffer from hypothermia just like humans. Pay attention. Are they shivering? Are they staying curled up as tightly as they can in an attempt to conserve their body heat? Those are sure signs they are cold. They need a warm bed and probably need to be wearing an insulated piece of doggie fashion.

If you walk your dog regularly, like I do mine, special attention needs to be paid to their little paw pads. They may become cracked and irritated. Especially if you experience some snow and the city comes out to salt the sidewalks in order to prevent icy slips and falls. Keep an eye on paw pads and apply petroleum jelly to soothe if overdry or, if cracked and inflamed, antibiotic ointment. If your dog gets some serious paw pad inflammation, you may even want to consider a set of booties. They take some getting used to. The adjustment period can be a bit hysterical. But, in the end, their little paws will thank you. It is also helpful to trim the hair around their paw pads to cut down on the chances of retaining moisture that can then create irritating ice crystals.

My pup is an indoor dog, but there are many dogs that dwell in the back yard. For a dog to fare well in the winter outdoors, they need a snug, warm shelter that will keep them dry. It should be elevated off the ground to provide the best case scenario for generating warmth from the dog’s own body heat. It should contain warm blankets as well as something like straw to help insulate and add to the snuggle factor.

Winter temperatures mean dogs will also be burning more calories in order to keep themselves warm. That means they need an increase in food rations as well as more fresh water.

Chances are you will be breaking out the antifreeze for the cars. This deadly poison has a very appealing sweet flavor. Clean up any spills thoroughly and store it properly where it is out of reach and secure.

And, just remember, even if your doggie is an outdoor dog, be kind. If the temperatures are in the freezing range for extended periods of time, create a comfortable out of the way place in a spot like the laundry room and let the poor thing come in and weather the storm.  If you poke your nose out the door and wouldn’t even possibly consider an afternoon at the park, well, chances are your backyard pet feels the same way.