Snow, ice, blowing winds, bone-chilling cold, parkas, boots, mittens and hats are the hallmarks of the winter season, especially in most regions of Canada this year. The bitter cold temperatures, regular snowfalls and long nights tend to negatively impact some people’s moods and mental wellbeing, which in turn affects their pets. For those of us who prefer warmth, shorts, sandals, and playing at the beach, we have a tendency to hibernate during the winter months.
Notwithstanding how we feel about winter, it’s important for people and pets to maintain our physical and mental health through daily exercise all throughout the year, not just during the warmer months. It raises the heartbeat and generates those “feel-good” brain chemicals.
Regardless of how you feel about exercise, all dogs must be taken for a brisk walk and/or run each and every day. Fish need to swim, birds need to fly, and dogs need to walk and run.
Playing with your dog in the backyard or heading to a dog park provides your canine with fresh air and the opportunity to mingle with other canines but it still isn’t a great substitute for a brisk 30 – 60 minute walk/run.
Exercise provides great benefits such as:
- It tones your dog’s muscles and helps the body and metabolic system to function properly.
- Prevents obesity. Dogs will become overweight, and even obese, if they are not allowed to burn off the calories they take in during the day. If you give your dog a lot of treats to compensate for lack of attention, the additional calories also contributes to weight gain.
- Just as in people, exercise helps our pets maintain muscle tone and preserves joint flexibility. Obesity puts a lot of stress on joints, ligaments, and tendons.
- Overweight pets have a shorter lifespan and a lower quality of life.
- Dogs that get daily walks are usually have better behaviour, are less destructive, obsessive or have separation/dominance issues.
- The mental stimulation gained from investigating every smell, sight, and sound which they get when they’re on a walk/run.
Exercise also provides the opportunity to practice obedience skills with her and reinforce your bond with her while you’re on a walk and the time for socialization and to practice social skills through encounters with other dogs or people on your route.
Aim for a minimum of 30 minutes of exercise every day for your dog, although Large and Giant Breed dogs, who are more prone to joint issues, should be out for at least 60 minutes every day. Even senior dogs can be out for 60 or more minutes every day if they’re in good health, but start slowly with a light and short jog, and gradually build up to a quicker pace over a few weeks so that they don’t get injured.
If your dog is very active, she may need longer, more vigorous walks, perhaps even two or more times a day.
It is important not to overdo exercise because pets can easily sustain injuries, especially in deep snow. The last thing we want is for our pets to suffer. Since we don’t speak the same language as dogs, it is important that you read their body language because they demonstrate pain differently than humans and are seldom vocal unless the pain is severe. Therefore, it is important to note that even subtle changes in behaviour or movement may signal a problem and watch for signs of discomfort in your pet such as:
- Yelping, whining or whimpering.
- Visible discomfort when lower hips are touched.
- Irritability or aggression when touched in the joint area.
- Wobbling rear end.
- Reluctance to walk or play.
- Stiffness or lameness after rest.
- Difficulty getting up after resting.
- Difficulty climbing or descending stairs.
- Loss of appetite.
- Depressed or withdrawn.
Try gently massaging your dog’s painful joints to help restore blood flow. Just like us, dogs’ joints may become inflamed in damp or cold weather so a good bed will keep your dog warm, supports its bones, and help your furry friend get a good night’s sleep. Invest in a good orthopaedic bed for your dog; there are many shapes and styles to choose from at your neighbourhood Global Pet Foods store.
Supplements containing glucosamine can be very helpful for dogs. Glucosamine is naturally present in animal bones and as a dietary supplement. It can help to promote new cartilage growth, relieve joint and muscle pain, and improve joint mobility. Glucosamine and chondroitin are most commonly used to treat osteoarthritis in aging dogs. Fish oils are also used to treat a wide range of issues from kidney disease and arthritis to high cholesterol. Methyl sulfonyl-methane (MSM) is an antioxidant, cell rejuvenator, and joint healer.
Speak with the local Healthy Pet Care specialists at your neighbourhood Global Pet Foods about the right supplements(s) that can provide joint relief for your pets.
Since your walks with your dogs may take place when it’s dark outside, it’s recommended that you outfit your dog with accessories to make sure your dog is easy to spot by people driving their cars. Further, pets lose most of their body heat through the pads of their feet, their ears, and their respiratory tract, so sweaters, coats ad booties can provide them with additional warmth particularly for short-haired or small breed dogs. Global Pet Foods offers a broad range of reflective collars, coats, leashes and leg bands, in exactly the right size and style to ensure your dog is safe and fashionable.
The other consideration during winter is the health of our dogs’ paws when walking on salted sidewalks or roads. Salt can irritate our pets’ paws which can be toxic if licked/or ingested, and even burn and dry them out. You can find sturdy dog boots or paw balm, for those dogs that like to go al fresco. Salt, sand and ice are no match for these paw protectors!
If you live near a pond or a lake, be very careful of ice. Animals can easily fall through the ice and can rarely climb out on their own. Keep your pet on a leash and stay with them when outdoors, especially if you live near water.
No matter what the temperature is, the wind chill can threaten a pet’s life. Exposed skin on noses, ear and paw pads can quickly freeze and cause permanent damage. When you’re outdoors with your pet, watch for the following signs: whining, shivering, appearing anxious, slowing down, stopping movement, looking for places to burrow. If you notice these signs, take your pet back inside immediately and wrap them in a warm towel.
TIP: Throw a blanket or towel in the dryer for a minute or two before wrapping them up.
Remember the mantra, ‘Wintertime is Fun Time’. Don’t let the cold keep you indoors. Just take the proper precautions, for both you and your pets, before heading outside. Maintain your dog’s physical health and mental wellbeing – and yours – by embracing the winter.
You’ll find all of the products, and expert advice, that you’ll need to keep your pets warm, happy and healthy during the winter season at your neighbourhood Global Pet Foods store. Yes, it’s cold outside, but the right steps can help you to enjoy the season! Use our Store Locator to find a Global Pet Foods store across Canada near you: http://www.globalpetfoods.com/store-locations
Head out that front door with your best friend at your side, and walk away those “winter blues”!