By Elsebeth DeBiase
BAminSc, ICMG, FFCP, LSHC-S
Winter is a picturesque season that evokes thoughts of holidays, family, chilly mornings, snuggles with the pup, and frosty sparkling sunrises. The winter season is a great time to bond with your dog by playing in the freshly fallen snow, taking warm car rides, or spending quality time together on the couch. Regardless of your choice of canine quality time, keeping your dog's skin and coat in tip-top shape can be challenging in the winter. Frigid temperatures, snowballs, and ice melt can significantly impact your pup's comfort and appearance. Regular grooming and the appropriate pet gear will keep your dog happy and healthy this winter.
Grooming aims to help your dog maintain healthy skin and coat year-round. It is vital to resist the urge to skip timely structured grooming sessions for your pup at home or with a professional even in chilly months. According to Dr. Werber, DVM, a well-maintained canine coat aids in thermoregulation, helping dogs stay cool in the summer and warm in the winter. A healthy canine coat is free from mats, tangles, and excess undercoat. Visiting the groomer every 6 to 8 weeks is adequate for most dogs requiring trimming and maintaining a coat at one-half inch or less. If desired, a slightly longer trim may be appropriate for some dogs, but the damp snowy weather makes keeping a mat-free coat difficult. It is important to note that longer winter trims may not provide sufficient warmth on bitterly cold days. Purdue University Extension reports thicker coats reduce heat loss from the skin, and dogs with thin coats will have less tolerance for cold temperatures. Small single-coated breeds like the maltese and yorkshire terrier will benefit from winter outerwear to keep them comfortable. Dogs sporting longer haircuts will need a daily at-home grooming regimen including combing and brushing. Curly and drop-coated breeds, such as poodles, doodles, and shih tzus are particularly susceptible to matting in wet conditions. When grooming these dogs at home, comb the areas most affected first, such as the legs, under jackets, and collars.
Paw care is another critical grooming element in harsh winter climates. Dogs' paws are vulnerable to injury in snowy, icy, cold conditions. Keep canine paws safe with the following tips:
- Trim paw hair. Trimming hair growing over the pads prevents debris and snow from sticking to feet.
- Protect paws with boots. According to preventivevet.com, even pet-safe ice melt can adversely affect your dog with repeated exposure by causing irritated, dry paws.
- Try Walkee Paws. Traditional winter pet boots can be difficult to fit and keep on. Walkee Paws are leggings for dogs that will not fall off and aid in protecting the foot and leg from snow, sand, and salt.
- Use paw balms. Paw balms moisturize and protect pads and are a suitable alternative for dogs unable to tolerate boots.
- Trim nails monthly. Long nails reduce traction and make it hard to fit boots and Walkee Paws.
Finally, if you find yourself in a snowy situation, the most effective way to remove snowballs is with a hairdryer on a low heat setting or a warm water rinse. Remember to comb through your dog after each bath or romp in the snow.
Winter is a wonderful time to relax and bond with your pup. Nevertheless, it will require more grooming for some dogs. Professional groomers are here to help keep your friend in the best shape.