Tips for Enjoying Winter With Your Senior Dog

Tips for Enjoying Winter With Your Senior Dog

Tips for Enjoying Winter With Your Senior Dog

Even in the winter, walks are essential for your senior dog to get the exercise and stimulation they need. After all, in some areas of the country, avoiding winter walks would mean keeping your dog cooped up for a good portion of the year. Yet, with ice and snow, de-icing chemicals on the ground, low temperatures and dogs with very strong feelings towards the weather, navigating winter with your older dog can be tough.

Believe me, I have firsthand experience. My dog Lily absolutely despises all things snow. Also, since I didn’t have a 4x4 until this year, I always had to park my car about 10 minutes from my house and walk quite a distance with my dogs. I’d actually pull them in a toboggan along with my bags (let’s just say it was quite a sight!). Usually, at least once during the trek, one of my seniors would turn around and try to go back home. So, living in snowy British Columbia with my four-legged family, I’ve really picked up a lot of tips and tricks for everything from protecting dog paws in winter to keeping pooches warm.

Trim Your Senior Dog’s Hair Regularly 

If your dog’s hair is longer, while you don’t want to shave them down to the skin because they need the warmth of their coat, it’s super important to trim their hair regularly so salt crystals, ice balls and chemicals won’t get stuck to it. Also, don’t forget to trim the hair between the paw pads. This is one of the best winter care tips for dog paws, since that aforementioned clinging ice and salt can result in discomfort or injury to the paw.

Use a Paw Protection Product

There are a variety of products available that work wonders for protecting dog paws in winter, including balms and waxes. Apply a thin layer before heading out for a walk. It will act as a barrier between your dog’s paws and the chemicals, salt, snow and ice. Musher’s Secret is a dog-specific product designed for paws in snow. Or, you can make your own using this DIY paw balm recipe, which includes olive, sunflower or almond oil mixed with coconut oil, shea butter and beeswax. When you come in from the walk, after cleaning your dog’s paws off, apply another layer of the balm to prevent dryness and cracking. I also use a similar mixture on my dogs’ noses.  

Keep Your Older Dog Warm and Dry

Senior dogs tend to be more sensitive to extreme temperatures and one of the biggest challenges of winter is keeping them warm and dry. I often layer a doggie jacket or vest over a sweater and then add leg warmers. I really love leg warmers for dogs because beyond looking incredibly adorable, they’re warm and keep snow and ice balls at bay. It’s also a good idea to bring along a towel on walks so you can quickly dry off your dog if they get wet and you can remove some of the snow and moisture before going back indoors.

Inspect and Clean Your Pooch’s Paws After Walks

Inspecting and cleaning your dog’s paws after a winter walk is a good way to make sure their paws are in tip-top shape and to remove snow, ice, salt and chemicals. As for how to clean your dog’s paws, wipe them down with a warm, wet washcloth, making sure to get in between the paw pads, and then dry them off thoroughly. You’ll also want to wipe down their legs and stomach. As you’re cleaning, part your dog’s toes and carefully check for any debris that may be stuck or injuries. If you spot an ice ball, resist the urge to try to pull it off because it can take your dog’s hair off with it. Instead, soak it with your warm washcloth and let it melt away on its own.

Don’t Go Overboard on the Baths 

Bathing your senior dog is important but you may want to cut down on the frequency during the cold weather months since baths can strip your dog’s coat of necessary oils. This can lead to flaky, dry skin. When you do bathe them, use a shampoo or rinse that’s moisturizing.

Tread Carefully

Try to keep your dog off the roads or heavily salted sidewalks when walking. Frequent or prolonged exposure to chemical de-icers can cause burns and irritation. You’ll also want to be careful of slippery conditions (for your dog and yourself!). Dog boots can be a good option or simply have your dog get in the Dogger dog stroller as you walk through tricky areas – it has great traction in all types of weather – and then let them down to walk again when the coast is clear. Pro tip: Use the Dogger rain cover to block out the cold wind and keep your dog comfortable. And, hey, if you have numerous fur babies, the toboggan served me well for a long time!

Use Dog-Safe Ice Melter on Your Own Property

Since a large part of keeping dogs safe in winter is avoiding the chemicals and salt often used to de-ice, opt for dog-friendly ice melters. You may not be able to control the products all of your neighbors use but you can certainly ensure your own property is safe for your pooch, so at least potty breaks will be worry free. Keep your steps and walkways free of ice with a product like Safe Paw Ice Melter. It works really well for melting ice but doesn’t contain corrosive chemicals, salts or dyes and is safe for pets, people and the environment. Sand and kitty litter can also work without exposing your dog’s paws to chemicals. Just be sure to wash their paws when they come in since the particles can cause irritation. When you’re out and about, be vigilant that your dog doesn’t drink from puddles or eat snow near roads or walkways since you can’t be certain what they’ve been treated with.


Dehydration may seem more like a problem associated with summer but hydration is actually crucial during winter too since your dog’s body expends a lot of energy keeping warm. For longer walks, bring water with you and make sure your senior dog is drinking enough when they return from being outdoors.

Use Your Judgment for Walks

If it’s so cold, snowy or icy you can barely stand it, your dog probably won’t do well either in the weather. Just like people, pooches can suffer from hypothermia too. In extreme conditions, keep walks short or just opt for quick bathroom breaks in the backyard until the weather is more tolerable.

Those are the tactics I use to keep my older pooches warm and happy – or at least willing to briefly brave the snow – during winter weather. By making sure your dog’s paws are protected and they’re warm and dry, you won’t have to let the snow or ice sideline you. For more great tips on caring for senior dogs, sign-up for the Dog Quality newsletter!

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