Living With Animals: Winterize Your Pooch

Although I think that skiing is about as much fun as sitting on a cactus, there are many Bay Area residents who disagree. So if you’re one of those folks planning to call in sick to work later this week and drive up to Tahoe so that you can strap yourself onto a pair of thin boards and plummet downhill, well, have fun. My concern here is about the dog you may be planning on taking with you. Those of us who live in this Mediterranean climate may forget, but if you and Fido are heading to the snow then you need to winterize your pooch!

That built-in fur coat may help, but even the fluffiest dogs who spend 99% of their time in the Bay Area will not have developed the full coat found on dogs exposed to more significant seasonal weather. And in really cold weather even that full-coated dog is still at risk of everything from cracked paws to potentially fatal hypothermia. A good starting point: if you feel the need of a coat, your dog does too. Happily for fashion-conscious Fidos, fiber- and down-filled dog vests are readily available.

Add booties which provide not only warmth but increased traction. They also protect paws from ice (which quickly develops on the fluff between toes) as well as salts and chemicals used to control ice (problematic both on the skin and if ingested). Don’t expect your dog to instantly enjoy or even tolerate these fashion accessories. Brief initial dress-up sessions with lots of loving (hugs, praise, yummies) is always the ticket. If booties just aren’t accepted (dogs often find them more off-putting than coats) there are several commercially available wax-like ointments designed for cold weather that are rubbed directly onto a dog’s feet.

One last tip: anytime you and your animals are away from home, make sure the animal is wearing i.d. which includes your cell number and/or local contact.

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