Helping your senior dog through the cold winter.

As I look out my window, the snow is falling. November 6th is awfully early for me, but for my old dog Baxter, it’s a sign that it’s going to be a very long winter. At 13, he’s suffering from a number of senior dog issues. He has limited vision and hearing, he’s lost some weight and has trouble going to the bathroom. So for his health and comfort, this winter, he needs some special attention. If you have an old dog, you might want to try some of these tips too.

  • The first is to make sure they are warm enough. Baxter has lost 4 pounds this year and gets colder much easier. He has a number of light sweaters and shirts he wears inside when the temps start to drop. He also has a couple of levels of winter coats to wear outside depending how cold it is. I tried boots, but he just won’t wear them. But if your dog will, better yet.
  • Secondly, when the snow comes, it’s important that they have a clear path outside to get to a spot to do their business. I keep a shovel by the door and go out first, so he can get to his bathroom spot easily.
  • Check their sleeping spots. At night, my dogs sleep in bed with me. But during the day, they have dog beds throughout the house. One is right by the register and has become Baxter’s favorite. Make sure they have a warm place to sleep without drafts or a cold floor.
  • If your dog has arthritis, think about adding a warming pad to their bed.
  • Let’s not even talk about keeping your dog outside in a dog house. It’s just not acceptable in this climate. A northern dog needs more shelter and warmth than an outdoor dog house can provide.
  • If you have a dog that needs to be groomed, make sure they get a longer cut. They might look scruffier but they’ll be warmer.
  • Winter baths are harder. I have short haired dogs so I bathe them at home myself. They’re not fond of the hair dryer but in the winter, I make sure they are almost completely dry as soon as they are out of the tub. And don’t let your dogs out in the cold when they’re wet.
  • Warming their food is another way to help the senior dogs stay warm. I make a turkey based food to top their dry food. Before serving them dinner, I warm it in the microwave so it’s at least room temperature. Who likes cold food on a cold day?
  • Think about steps so your dog can get on the bed or sofa easier. Baxter can’t see so they aren’t an option for him. But if your older dog still has good vision, help their arthritic legs and back with some doggie steps.
  • On a really cold day, I love to throw their blankets in the dryer for a couple of minutes before they go out. That way, when they come in, there is instant warmth waiting for them.

My old guy is failing fast. I hate to see him falter and realize that each day with him is a gift. So this winter, he’s getting the superstar treatment. It’s the least I can do for a guy that’s been a loving companion for over 13 years.  Warm, dry and good food plus lots of love and hugs… it’s how we’re going to spend this winter.

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