Winter pet care |

Winter pet care

Nadine Lober

Now that winter is finally here and the mountains are covered with snow, most hiking trails and golf courses have become a winter playground for pets. We need to keep our dogs fit and trim.

The days are now shorter and it may become a chore to walk the dog after work in the dark or even early in the morning when the cold can be brutal.

If our dogs are overweight or their exercise is limited, the amount of food we give needs to be reduced accordingly. Ideally, we should switch to a less-active food, which will have fewer calories and more fiber.

Remember to feed twice a day. Most of us overfeed our pets because of the guilt they place on us with sad faces or begging, both techniques we have taught them.

A cup of food is “one measure cup” ” not an empty coffee tin, which is closer to two cups. On the back of the bag it will give you the amount to feed your dog based on his weight.

Split that amount into morning and evening meals. Decrease that amount slightly if your dog is on a diet, or switch to light dog food.

Remember that all treats add calories, so feed low-fat treats ” even cooked veggies are good.

Exercise tips

Many dogs are arthritic ” just like active humans ” while others, particularly larger breeds, have some degree of hip dysplasia. Cold weather may cause pain and stiffness.

Arthritis medication and exercise is very important on a regular basis, but amount and difficulty of exercise varies according to how fit and healthy your dog is.

Exercise, however, does not mean running your dog behind a snowmobile at 40 mph or leading him on a four-hour cross country trail for a first winter work out. You need to gradually work up to a challenging routine.

Dogs, especially Labs, are willing to follow you anywhere and for as long as you want. Running in the snow, especially if it’s deep, is more strenuous, and they don’t ” they can’t ” think about not being able to get out of bed the next morning.

So start out slow, maybe with a mellow snowshoe, a walk around the golf course or a short run and gradually increase the amount of exercise.

There are medications if your dog seems stiff or in pain after a rigorous activity. But don’t use Tylenol, ibuprofen or other anti-inflammatories because they may cause gastro-intestinal problems.

The only safe type of aspirin is coated, such as ascriptin of bufferin, and doses vary according to weight. A safe anti-inflammatory that is only dispensed by veterinarians is rimadyl.

Remember to have your dog on glucosamine (glycoflex) if there is a history of arthritis.

Outdoor dogs

If you have a long-haired dog or one who tends to grow hair between his toes, try to keep that hair trimmed. This will prevent the accumulation of snow balls between the toes, which can cause the toes to spread and the skin to split and bleed.

If you have a dog with a thin coat and sensitive skin, then he might need booties.

Dogs can be left outdoors during the day. Most dogs ” goldens, Labs, aussies, malamutes and huskies ” tolerate the cold. But some dogs have been kept in our warm homes and may not be able to spend a full day in the yard if it’s too cold.

Use common sense ” make sure to have a doghouse with blanket, even a heated one, and plenty of water that isn’t frozen. Ideally, there’s a doggy door leading into the home or garage.

We forget sometimes that our dogs grow old, get cold or are not up for hours of exercise. They try to please us and want to follow us anywhere, so we need to think for them and keep them comfortable.

For further questions, call Dr. Nadine Lober at (970) 949-7972.

Vail Colorado

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