When cold and flu season rolls around, you probably do everything you can to stay healthy. You stock up on sanitizer, get your extra vitamin C, and visit your doctor or local pharmacy for a flu shot… That’s great! But what are you doing for your four-legged family members to ensure they are safe and healthy in the winter months?
Your dog needs special care in the winter, especially if you live in an area with regular snow and ice. Here are a few steps to take throughout the season to ensure his health and happiness this season.
Bundle Up Your Pup
This isn’t a universal rule-- some breeds of dog have thick coats particularly for outdoor warmth in the winter. However, for dogs with thin coats-- especially smaller breeds-- a coat or sweater is necessary to keep them warm in the cold air. Your pup’s extra layer should cover all the way from the neck to the base of the tail and around the tummy for optimal warmth. However, even a good coat leaves your dog’s ears, tail, and feet exposed. So even with one on, your short-haired dog shouldn’t be outside for extended amounts of time if the weather is below freezing.
Even when your short-haired pup is safe inside, beware of how much draft your windows may be letting in, especially if his favorite spot is beside a window. By weatherproofing your windows, you can keep him protected from harsh temperatures coming in through cracks (and you can save money, too!).
Add Oil to His Food
You know how your skin starts to feel tight and dry when the winter weather rolls in? Your dog’s skin is affected by the cold as well. However, unlike you, your dog can’t slather on lotion everyday for relief. All that fluffy fur tends to get in the way.
There are two ways to help prevent and treat dry skin for your dog:
- Keep him well hydrated.
- Consider adding a fatty oil supplement to his food.
Adding an oil supplement to his food moisturizes from the inside out. Coconut oil is a favorite and some vets even say it can help your dog smell sweeter. Fish oil is another good choice. Dogs tend to like its meaty aroma and the extra omega fatty acids can help reduce inflammation in the joints and improve brain health. Olive oil is full of antioxidants and healthy fats, but you want to be sure to use a high quality, extra virgin olive oil to ensure you’re not just giving your dog filler oil that’s unhealthy for pups and humans alike. Before you begin to add oil to your dog’s diet, consult your veterinarian to help pick out the best kind for your pup.
Educate Yourself About Dog Flu
Canine influenza (H3N2 and H3N8) causes many of the same symptoms humans feel when they get the flu:
- Runny nose
- Eye discharge
- Reduced appetite
While all dogs are susceptible to the flu, only a small percentage catch the virus. However, the odds of your dog catching it go up in the winter. If you are concerned for your dog’s health, your veterinarian can provide vaccines to help prevent the virus. If your dog is older or has a compromised immune system, you’ll definitely want to get the vaccines. Just like humans, it’s harder for elderly or sickly dogs to shake the flu. If your dog shows any flu symptoms, schedule an appointment with your vet as soon as possible.
Your dog has special health needs in the winter just as you and your family do. If your dog has short hair or is a small breed, invest in a coat or sweater to help keep him warm when the weather drops below freezing. To help prevent dry, itchy skin, consult your veterinarian about adding fatty oils to his diet that can help ease the discomfort. Finally, educate yourself about canine influenza. If your dog is older or has a compromised immune system, your veterinarian can administer a vaccination that helps prevent the virus from spreading.