Pets and cold weather

The freezing point for water is 32 degrees Fahrenheit, and with an average low of just 29 degrees for December and 25 degrees for January in this region, all residents of Fairfax County should take some winter precautions. This applies to your furry family members as well. Chapped paws, itchy, dry skin, and harmful chemicals from ice-melting compounds used on roads and sidewalks are just a few of the risks posed to dogs during winter.

While a change in weather usually means a change in routine, some things are important to keep in place for your dog all year round. It’s true that fleas and ticks are less active during colder months, but with indoor heating and temperature fluctuation, these insects can still be problematic. Fleas can survive easily inside, and some varieties of ticks continue to bite during winter. Keep your dog’s usual treatment regimen on track in colder months to ensure that they continue to be pest-free. 

A unique challenge that winter weather presents is the combination of both harsh, dry air as well as cold, wet sleet and snow. The dry heat from your home coupled with the cold air outside can cause your dog’s skin to become cracked and itchy, which may cause excess scratching and damage to their skin and coat. Use a humidifier indoors to help combat exposure to dry air. It’s also important to dry your pet off as soon as they come back inside, so they stay warm and don’t have prolonged contact with cold moisture from rain, sleet, or snow.

Even if the skies have cleared up, snow and ice can get caught between the pads on your dog’s feet (this is especially true if their nails are on the longer side) and cause irritation. Use a warm cloth to wipe off their paws, with special attention to between their toes. Even if the sidewalks have been well-shoveled, it’s a good idea to clean off their paws. Many products used for thawing ice from concrete contain chemicals that can be harmful if left on their skin, or licked off and ingested. If their paws are dry or irritated, apply some coconut oil (as it is safe for dogs, even when eaten) to help sooth and repair their skin. Also make sure they’re staying well-hydrated. Just because it’s not hot doesn’t mean they don’t still need access to plenty of water. 

Keeping your pet warm is the most obvious way to keep them safe during winter, but when is ‘cold’ too cold for your dog? A good rule of thumb to apply is that if it’s too cold for you, then it’s too cold for your furry friend. Never leave Fido outside unattended or keep them out for a long period of time. The cold can result in disorientation, which can cause your doggo to get lost, stolen, or even result in death. Sometimes a quick potty-run is the only safe exposure. Just be sure to keep any winter blues at bay by giving them plenty of pets and playtime indoors.


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