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Senior dogs, just like senior humans, are impacted more by cold weather than their younger counterparts. I notice my thirteen-year-old poodle, Henrietta, has a harder time getting out of her bed in the morning and she doesn’t tolerate the winter temperatures anywhere nearly as well as she did when she was younger.
If you notice your senior dog (most dogs are considered “seniors” when they are seven-years-old, even earlier for large breed dogs) is slowing down or would rather be under a blanket than going for a walk, let her move at her own pace.
As you put on your boots, hat, scarf, mittens and jacket before you go outside, take time to prepare your senior dog for the elements as well.
Here are tips to keep your senior dog safe in the winter.
Keep them warm. If your dog has longer fur, let them keep it long and lush in the winter – it will keep them warmer. If you have a shorter coated, or short-groomed dog, put them in a jacket (if they will let you) to provide a layer of warmth against the cold, blustery days.
Even dog breeds such as the Husky, Newfoundland and others who are tolerant of frigid temperatures will feel the cold more acutely as they age.
Clean them off. After you and your dog come indoors, wipe off her paws, especially if there is rock salt on the steps or sidewalk. Wipe any snow off their belly and remove any tiny snowballs that build up in their fur and between the pads of their toes. You may want to put paw wax on her feet to protect her paws from rock salt and icy sidewalks.
Protect their bones and joints. Clothing keeps aching hips warm and might make them not so stiff. You may want to talk with your veterinarian about adding supplements like glucosamine and chondroitin to their diets either in supplement form or in food enriched with it.
Keep them safe from falls. If you have a dog who is unsteady on his feet, you may want to carry him up and down the stairs, if he’s light enough for you to do that. If you can’t carry him and he is too stiff and sore to get up the stairs on his own, add a ramp to help him.
There are harnesses you can buy that act as stability for your dog; you put the harness on and there is a handle on the back of it that lets you hold her up and keep her steady on her feet.
A cozy bed. Give your dog a warm, draft-free place in which to sleep. Older dogs benefit from a soft, thick bed so their sore joints and bones aren’t rubbing on the cold, hard floor. If there is a warm area in the house – the laundry room or in front of a heat vent, let them hang out there and warm up.
Stay active. Even if your dog doesn’t want to stay out of doors or go for a long walk because it’s too cold, you still want to keep her up and moving. Movement will keep her joints from stiffening up from inactivity. If you can’t go out of doors, find some fun indoor games or a game of fetch in the garage or other room out of the elements.
Clear a path. Don’t make a dog who may already be unsteady and who is aching from the cold, trudge through chest deep snow. Shovel a path so he doesn’t have to get buried in snow to do his business.
Make sure your dog is healthy and prepared to brave the bitter cold temperatures that are blanketing many parts of the country. A healthy dog is one who can better withstand plunging temperatures.
Nothing in this article should be construed as financial, legal or veterinary advice. Please consult your own advisors for questions relating to your and your pet’s specific circumstances.
Robbi Hess is a full-time pet blogger and multi-published author. She shares her life with a diva Poodle, a goofy Goldendoodle, two Devon Rex, a senior ginger kitty and three reptiles!