6 Grooming Tips to Keep Your Dog Healthy During the Cold, Wet Months

A brown and white jack russell sits on the floor with a santa hat on. He's well-groomed, even during the winter.

Winter is here and with the colder and less predictable weather comes a number of pet ownership challenges. You’re probably prepared for things like changing your pet’s diet and giving them extra blankets or winter booties to keep them warm. However, one area of animal care that often gets overlooked during the colder months of the year is grooming. You could be forgiven for thinking that grooming isn’t important over winter – after all, a longer, shaggier coat will naturally keep your pet warmer, right? Well yes, in theory. But there are also certain risks associated with letting their grooming routine slide. The main one is that longer, thicker coats can become matted much more easily. Fur that’s matted doesn’t insulate or provide warmth. Instead, it can cause hotspots, cause them pain when brushing them, and even lead to infections affecting the skin. In fact, some experts suggest that regular grooming could be more important during the winter months than at any other time of the year.

Fortunately, there are things that you can do to prevent common winter problems from arising. Here are our top 6 grooming tips to keep your dog healthy during the cold, wet months.

1. Don’t overlook the benefits of a winter haircut

One of the biggest misconceptions about trimming a pet’s fur in the winter is that it will cause them to get cold more easily. While a thick, slightly longer coat will help keep your pet warmer more easily, provided they live indoors, they actually aren’t reliant on having additional layers and can cope perfectly well without them. Longer fur also poses a problem when it comes to collecting rain, ice, and snow. Not only does longer fur absorb water more easily, but ice particles and snow can cling to it, reducing your pet’s body temperature rapidly. This can put them at risk of hypothermia and other issues. At the very least we recommend that you trim hair that hangs down below their belly, around their legs, on their paws, and between their paw pads to minimize the likelihood of problems.

2. Protect their paws

Would you want to go out in cold, wet and potentially icy or snowy conditions barefoot? No? Well, neither does your pet. Whether they are running around in the yard, going for a controlled walk, or exploring further afield, if their paws aren’t protected, they could become irritated, cracked, and sore. There are a few things that you can do to help prevent this from happening. Consider putting booties on your pet when you leave the house as these will fully protect your pet’s paws from the elements. ‘Paw balm’ which is a lotion that is pasted onto the paws to soften the skin, should be applied after your pet has been outside. Try and avoid walking your pet in areas where there may be salt being used to melt ice/snow as this can irritate their skin further. And be sure to clean their paws and lower legs when they come in from outside as if they lick them, any toxic substances that they may have picked up could be ingested and make them sick.

3. Brush their fur regularly

Brushing is one of the core elements of a good grooming routine, helping to eliminate any loose hairs, dirt, and debris that may have accumulated in their coat. Brushing regularly also removes tangles. Boost circulation and distribute natural oils throughout their coat to keep it healthy and in good condition. You can also use regular brushing as an opportunity to check under your pet’s coat for any abnormalities – such as lumps, bumps, or rashes – that could indicate that they need veterinary attention.

4. Keep those claws trimmed

Your pets’ claws grow all year round, not just in the summer months. The trouble with the inclement weather is that we tend to spend more time indoors, and so too do our pets. This means that rough ground, running, and climbing which typically wears their claws down when they are outside regularly isn’t happening. As a result, you may need to trim their nails more often than usual. If you aren’t happy about doing it yourself, as even many experienced owners aren’t, get regular appointments scheduled with your usual pet groomer. Don’t be tempted to delay. Overgrown claws can be very painful, prone to infection, and could lead to damage to property or people.

5. Don’t skip their dental hygiene routine

Most pets need a few extra calories in the winter to keep them warm. This extra eating increases their risk of developing dental problems so it’s important to stay on top of their oral hygiene routine. Regular brushing at home is one of the best ways to avoid cavities and gum disease, and with practice and patience, most pets learn to tolerate the process fairly well. You should also make sure that you take your furbaby for their check-ups with your vet who can assess their teeth and undertake a professional clean if necessary.

6. Parasite protection is needed all year round

Many owners mistakenly believe that there are fewer parasites around in the winter months, but this isn’t necessarily the case. These creatures have evolved to be able to survive in low temperatures and unpredictable weather, so it’s essential to carry on giving your pet their parasite preventatives all year round. Not sure which to choose? Your vet will be happy to help.

For more grooming tips or advice on caring for your pet this winter, speak to our expert team.