Exercising our dogs in the Winter can sometimes be a challenge. Caroline Hearn from Hedgerow Hounds gives a few top tips to make life easier and safer for your dog.

Avoid injury especially for the elderly and infirm

A  frosty, bitterly cold start to the day will mean that your dog’s muscles are not only cold from the fall in temperature but also because they have been resting all night.

It is really important to give between five and ten minutes lead walking and even more so for seniors and dogs that have had an injury in the past before letting them off the lead to run. A warm lengthened muscle is far more prepared for a faster pace and much less prone to injury.

Old or arthritic dogs will benefit from a comfortable, warm coat to wear, this can always be removed if they start to get too warm once they have had a run around.

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Be aware that the ground underfoot can change dramatically with a hard frost. The usual muddy track or gateway can become very treacherous and icy or any rutted ground frozen solid. This can cause damage to your dog’s paws, joints and muscles should they run over it at speed. Also, be careful when there has been snowfall and you are walking in an unfamiliar place as the snow can conceal many hidden dangers underneath.

The dangers of grit and antifreeze

If you have to walk on pavements and grit has either been laid down or spread across from the gritting lorry then make sure you wash your dog’s paws, legs and undercarriage off immediately with lukewarm water on returning home, followed by towel drying as they are less likely to lick their legs if they are dry. When the pads are dry a paw balm can be rubbed in to avoid the pads cracking or becoming sore.

Be extremely vigilant of the dangers of anti-freeze, which can either be spilled or sometimes end up in puddles from a passing vehicle. If you are walking in an area where this could be a possibility then keep the dog on a lead and make sure you have a bottle of water and a travel bowl with you for longer walks to avoid the temptation of them drinking from puddles. If you see your dog lick anti-freeze then they need to be taken to the vet immediately as it is extremely poisonous.  

Be visible!

If you walk your dog in the late afternoon or evening then remember to wear some sort of reflective clothing and also something on your dogs collar or harness. There are discs and collars that contain a battery and can be illuminated at the touch of a button. These are useful if you intend to let your dog off the lead as you can see where the dog is at all times or if you mistime your walk and suddenly find you are walking back in fading light.  

What to do if your dog suddenly stops wanting to go for a walk

If older or arthritic dogs suddenly stop wanting to go out for walks once the weather turns colder then it could well be that they are uncomfortable somewhere in their body and possibly have joint pain which is made worse by the cold, damp weather.

Speak to your vet about any medication they are on and also look into feeding a quality joint supplement to help them feel more comfortable. They may only require a very short walk or just a wander around the garden if the weather turns very cold and miserable.

This blog was originally published on the Hedgerow Hounds website and reproduced here with thanks.

Caroline Hearn, MICHT, Dip. ICAT

Caroline is a Member of IAAT, the International Association of Animal Therapists. She is a sports, remedial and holistic massage therapist qualified to treat canine, equine, and human patients. Caroline has a lifelong obsession with dogs, a passion for holistic healthcare and natural nutrition, and a love for foraging in the countryside; all of which lead her to form the company Hedgerow Hounds which makes veterinary-approved nutritive herbal blends for dogs and other natural healthcare products. She has recently developed Hedgerow Horse.

Caroline also writes regularly for the holistic magazine Edition Dog and covers subjects such as raw feeding, canine therapies and the progress of the herbal sensory garden she created for her dogs.

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The veterinary Surgeon’s Act 1966 restricts the treatment of animals (usually other than your own*) by anyone other than a qualified vet. Always consult a veterinary surgeon if you are concerned about your animal’s health. *For full details visit the RCVS website