Going out and buying a sweater for your pup for the winter is not a bad idea and definitely not over-reacting. Dogs get cold too, and when they are left outside for a long period of time, or they are swimming in the lake in harsh weather, they can get hypothermia. It's good to notice when your dog cannot tolerate the cold and to know you need to take them inside and warm them up, before their teeth starts chattering and they get ill.
Lucky for you, we have some tips here on keeping your dog warm in winter. These will be especially handy to know if you're in or around Wanaka, where it can get pretty chilly when the snow starts collecting on the mountains (as we have seen this week, eesh!).
Know when it's too cold to go out: Stand outside in the garden and decide if it's just too cold to take your dog for a walk - you may be able to wrap yourself in several layers on but they can't! This is especially important to consider with younger dogs, smaller dogs or seniors.
Invest in a sweater: This is a good idea for short haired dogs or those prone to being affected by extreme temperatures, and it's a MUST for hairless dogs! This isn't pampering, coddling or spoiling your dog, it's being sensible.
Groom appropriately for the season: Many dog owners make the mistake of completely ignoring their dog's usual grooming routine over the winter months. Of course, you don't want them to have the same short clip they get in summer, but they should still receive regular coat care and maintenance, either from you at home or with their usual groomer. If you neglect the coat and allow it to knot or mat, this can cause far worse than just a shaggy appearance. Mats are extremely painful for your dog, pinching and tightening the skin. Water and dirt gets trapped underneath causing sores and you can imagine how much more painful this will be for your dog in the cold weather. Your groomer will tell you that's it's not uncommon to see nasty, infected areas of skin underneath mats. Do your dog a favour and do the kind thing - brush everyday, and if the coat is becoming knotted take a trip to the groomer. Sometimes the only option for severe mats is clip off close to the skin, and the last thing your dog needs in winter is a short coat! If you take care of it early enough this doesn't have to be your only option.
Don't make your dog sleep outdoors: When the frost sets in and the days are cold, imagine how much colder it gets during the night - it's not healthy for a dog's temperature to drop too much., and it will in freezing conditions. It's always best to be safe and have your dog stay indoors over the winter season, a well insulated and warm room is recommended.
Make sure they have appropriate bedding: As well as the point above, the dogs' beds should be away from any doors or windows that may have a draft, and they should have a good blanket. Yes, they like snuggling up in blankets when they're feeling the chill, too! There are even heated pads out there for pets who struggle in the cold, in particular, senior dogs.
Note the time of day you go out: It's sensible to only take your dogs for walks (or for a swim in the lake) when the sun is up and warm. Early mornings and late evenings will be much colder and they will be at risk of developing hypothermia at those times.
Know the warning signs for hypothermia: If you're outdoors and your dog whines, won’t stop shivering, acts anxious or seems weak, has ice on his body, stops moving or slows down, looks for warm places to hide in, then take your furry friend home immediately. It is a good idea to keep your vets' number close by for these situations too, they may suggest you wrap your dog in a blanket but you may need to take them in just to be on the safe side.
There you go, we hope you keep these tips in mind on keeping your companion warm, comfortable, healthy and safe during the winter season!