Dogs need regular grooming throughout the cooler months. Learn how to adapt your current grooming routine to keep your dog healthy through winter.
It’s a common misconception that dogs don’t need regular grooming in cold weather. In fact, as the months start to get colder in the run-up to winter, it's important to adapt your dog’s grooming routine to keep them warm and comfortable.
Read on for our guide to cold weather grooming for your dog.
During autumn, your dog will shed its summer coat to allow for a thicker, warmer coat for the cold weather (unless they’re a non-shedding breed, such as Poodles or Bichon Frises). Unlike cats, dogs don’t groom themselves, so they need extra help to keep their thicker winter coat in check and prevent matting.
Regular brushing two to three times a week with a suitable comb will help remove loose fur and prevent knots. Long-haired dogs will need daily grooming to keep their coat in great condition. Start with a wide-toothed comb on small areas at a time to remove knots, then switch to a slicker brush to remove loose fur and dirt.
If you notice any matting, it’s important to deal with it right away before it gets worse. Speak to your vet for advice on how to remove it without causing pain or discomfort.
Regular grooming also gives you the opportunity to remove dead leaves or any other debris from their fur. If your dog gets caught out in the rain, always dry them thoroughly with a towel; warm, damp fur creates a perfect breeding ground for bacteria and infection. It’s a good idea to keep a towel in your car for emergencies while you’re out and about.
Many people believe that giving their dog a haircut during the cooler months will leave them unprotected from cold weather. However, it’s important to remember that most dogs spend the majority of their time snuggled up inside a centrally heated home. Therefore, they don’t need to rely on a thick coat to keep them warm, and can enjoy the benefits of a regular trim to keep their fur in check. If you’re concerned on particularly cold walks, opt for an insulated dog coat to keep them warm.
Dogs often love nothing more than a wet, muddy walk, which can wreak havoc on their coat. While you should avoid bathing your dog too often (this can dry out their skin and cause issues), baths are sometimes necessary to clean them up and prevent them smelling. Use dog-friendly shampoo to remove any build-up, paying particular attention to their armpits, toes and groin area – ask your vet for their professional dog-grooming tips. Make sure they’re completely dry before letting them outside; a wet dog is much more susceptible to hypothermia, particularly small breeds.
The UK sees plenty of rain, and as the weather gets wetter, your dog is more at risk of dirty paws, even after walking on the pavement. It’s important to wipe off any excess dirt and moisture around their feet after every walk, making sure you get between their toes and under their nails.
Checking your dog’s paws during winter also gives you a chance to check for any bits of gravel or stone that may have become lodged between their toes which, if left unchecked, can cause severe pain and infection.
In the event of a freezing winter, you should also watch out for chemical burns or rashes caused by gritting salt. If your dog’s feet look irritated, gently wash it off with warm water and consider keeping them indoors until the irritation calms. Rock salt can be toxic to dogs, so always clean it off before they get a chance to lick it off themselves.
Much like our own fingernails, dog nails never stop growing, so regular clipping with a specialist tool helps keep them short and manageable. If you hear them clicking on a hard surface when they walk, it’s time for a pedicure. Most dogs hate having their feet handled but doing this regularly from a young age (and rewarding them with a treat afterwards) will help ease the relatively simple process. Ask your vet for their top tips on trimming your dog’s nails.
Various objects can become lodged in your dog’s ear, so you should always check them during your regular grooming sessions. Healthy ears should be clean and be free of odour, without redness or discharge.
Dog’s ears are extremely delicate and easily damaged, so avoid trying to clean them yourself, and never put anything in them as this can cause distress. If you think your dog’s ears need cleaning, or you have any concerns, speak to your vet.
Although your dog’s skin is protected by a thick layer of fur, it’s important to keep an eye on it, especially in the colder months. Central heating and extreme temperatures can dehydrate their skin and cause dandruff. If you spot a few flakes, consider investing in a humidifier to add moisture back into the air and make sure their diet is rich in omega 3.
If dandruff doesn’t dissipate or their skin becomes red and irritated, this could be a sign of an underlying condition, so speak to your vet as soon as possible.
You should also keep an eye out for any lesions, sores or swelling that can be a sign of Alabama Rot. These sores are usually found below the knee or elbow and are often the only signs of the disease before it causes kidney failure. If you spot any of these signs, contact your vet straight away.
Unfortunately, arthritis in dogs often gets worse during cold weather, so it’s a good idea to check your dog for signs of joint trouble, particularly as they get older.
Look out for slowness and caution in their movements, or subtle limping which could also be signs of arthritis. If you suspect your dog may be suffering, speak to your vet for more advice.
Get advice on grooming your dog during the colder seasons – speak to your Medivet practice.
Although still considered rare, cases of Alabama rot (or CRGV) in dogs have risen in recent years after it was first identified in the US in the 1980s. Keep reading for our advice on what it is, how to spot it and what to do if your dog is affected.