Meteorologists can’t seem to agree on how cold our winter will be, but dog experts Kaitlin Slack and Jessica Harris have some advice for Calgary pet owners. The Calgary Journal caught up with Slack, the humane education coordinator from The Calgary Humane Society, and Harris, the walking manager at BowDog Canine Specialists.

Both agree if your dog is shivering and lifting its paws, then you need to re-think the outdoor excursion.

Here are their top tips to keep Fido happy and healthy when the mercury plunges.

Avoid icy rivers

During a walk it is best to avoid the river in the winter especially if the ice is not viewable, says Harris.

“If it’s covered with snow, and the dog likes water, it’s not going to know to stay away from it,” she adds.

Ares and Cashing enjoying the cool river. Photo by Shaunda Lamont

Make walks a pawsitive experience

Pay much more attention to what your dog is stepping in.

“Use pet friendly ice melting materials because if dogs get it into their paws it can be dangerous,” says Slack. “They are at a risk of burning their paws.”

Other materials like anti-freeze should be stored in high places away from ground level, she adds.

“When you get in from a walk it’s best to wipe your dog’s paws down, so they do not deteriorate or ingest any of those chemicals,” says Harris.

Also, remove ice from the paws because it can cause frostbite.

A trim around the paws also helps to prevent ice buildup, says Harris.

Cash enjoying a lovely walk near in a dog park near Chapprall and Stoney Trail. Photo by Shaunda Lamont

Beware of frostbite

Understand the early signs of frostbite by being aware of the signs.

Harris says the first signs of frostbite happens at the tips of the ears, tails, and toes. If left unnoticed the tissue will blister and feel hot, and the dog would need medical attention, she adds.

Combat the cold with all the right clothing and accessories

When the temperature falls below  -10 C, owners should think about winter clothing.

Slack says they can use high quality treats and introduce coats and boots early on to make their dogs comfortable.

Feeding a dog treats while it’s wearing a coat and boots is a positive feedback loop because the dog will associate the articles of clothing with food, she adds.

If booties are not working, Harris recommends another type of coverage.

“There is wax coating that you can get for their feet,” she says.

The wax creates a protective layer on the paws, which prevents the buildup of snow and ice. It also stops the pads from drying out and cracking, she adds.

Charlie in a coat and shoes. Photos courtesy of Jessica Harris

Bishop wearing his grey sweater in order to protect his fur on a windy day. Photo by Shaunda Lamont

Get creative and stay indoors

When staying indoors an owner can use a snuffle mat or Kong toy, says Slack. A snuffle mat is covered in different layers of fabric with hidden compartments for treats and a Kong can be filled with peanut butter or treats.

“That will work their brain,” says Slack.

So will a rambunctious game of indoor fetch.

Use heat lights and other warming devices outside

“If your dog is going to be outside for long periods of times, they need to have a warm shelter that’s heated so they can escape the cold,” says Slack.

Another necessity is a heated water dish. This insures the bowl will not freeze over, says Slack. However, the number one tip is to forgo leaving a dog out in the cold at all.

“If it’s too cold for you, it’s too cold for your animal,” says Slack.

Shaunda Lamont | slamont@cjournal.ca

Editor: Jan Kirstyn Lopez | jlopez@cjournal.ca