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Keeping Your Dog Safe and Healthy in Winter

During the cooler parts of the year, our dogs have different needs, and they rely on us, their human companions, to ensure they are safe and well-cared for. While a dog’s overall well-being should be top-of-mind, proper care doesn’t have to break the bank.

A HOPE can provide resources to assist in caring for your pets all year. We help connect people with what they need to help their pets live happy, healthy lives—including education on how best to care for our furry friends.

Weather-Related Care

The amount of time a dog spends outside should be limited during cold snaps, especially if the dog has a light coat, has health problems, or is elderly. While a heated shelter can be beneficial, it has its limitations. Strive to keep your pet indoors when the temperatures drop. When you take your dog out for exercise and bathroom breaks in the cold, use a dog sweater and booties.

It’s especially important to keep your dog’s paws safe from ice and the salt that is often applied to roads and sidewalks when they become slick. Wipe down their feet, and occasionally apply bag balm or the less expensive petroleum jelly to keep their pads hydrated and prevent cracking. Not that ice and snow are a problem in Santa Rosa County, but this is a tip for our Northern followers and supporters!

Food and Water

Dogs need to have water available to them at all times, and in the colder months, will likely need a little extra food to maintain a protective layer of winter fat. If you feed your dog outside, heated dishes can be helpful. If you don’t want the expense, you can warm both the food and water before serving it. Pay careful attention to their intake. Dogs may show early signs of illness by refraining from eating, and some disorders can progress faster in colder months. Monitoring what they ingest (and eliminate) can give you and your vet key insights into their overall health picture.


No dog should be sleeping on a cold concrete floor during the winter, and elderly dogs, in particular, will appreciate warm and comfortable bedding. According to the American Kennel Club, you can buy memory foam dog beds designed to gently cushion senior bones, which can provide relief from arthritis. A less expensive option is to repurpose pillows or old couch cushions. There are also high-quality heated dog beds on the market. A more cost-effective variation is a hot water bottle or rice bag tucked into blankets. If you notice your dog has a hard time getting up or limps a bit after rising, have him or her checked for arthritis, which can be aggravated by cold weather.

Pain Management

Just as older people have more aches and pains during the colder months, animals feel much the same. If your dog has a chronic health condition, consult your vet about the best ways to manage pain. According to Rover, you might need prescription meds, or you may be able to use less expensive over-the-counter vitamins and supplements. Whether it’s bacon-flavored CBD oil, chondroitin glucosamine, or other dog-friendly products, your vet should be able to help you identify the best products to meet your pet’s needs. If your pup suffers from allergies, especially ones that result in itchy skin, which can be exacerbated in colder months, an appropriate oral or topical treatment may be in order.

Overall Safety

There are some basic safety measures pet owners should keep in mind year-round. Get your pup spayed or neutered to reduce unwanted litters, and have them microchipped in the event they get lost. While a fenced yard is great for play, don’t leave them unattended for long, especially in inclement weather. Also, keep ID tags on your dog at all times and don’t venture out with them unless they are leashed. An escape-proof harness can be beneficial. This type of leash can protect against trachea damage that can sometimes come from a dog straining against a traditional neck collar and leash.

Pets are like family to most people, and as such, they deserve our love, care, and attention. Be especially mindful of needs that change when the temperatures drop and be proactive about keeping your pup healthy and well year-round.

Have questions about taking care of your dogs or cats in cold weather? Reach out to our Help Desk by email at or by phone at (850) 665-0511 for guidance and resources.

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