I’m among those who loves to travel, both near and quite far, but frankly does not understand why anyone who doesn’t expressly have to travel is willing much less wanting to do so right now. I want to travel again, someday, and am committed to doing what I can so that both me and the world are ready for travel when that someday becomes today. But knowing that feeling is far from universal, this is my annual column on what to do if you’re heading off to enjoy winter and are bringing your pooch along with you.
Your dog’s built-in fur coat will help, but even the fluffiest dogs who spend 99% of their time in the Bay Area will not have developed the full coat found on dogs exposed to more significant seasonal weather. And in really cold weather even that full-coated dog is still at risk of everything from cracked paws to potentially fatal hypothermia. Here’s the rule: if you feel the need of a coat, your dog does too. Happily for fashion-conscious Fidos, fiber- and down-filled dog vests are readily available, but remember those only protect what they cover. Tail tips, ear flaps and other sensitive and uncovered areas can suffer from frostbite, so limit time outdoors as the thermometer drops. This advice is even more critical for puppies and older animals.
Consider booties, which provide not only warmth but increased traction. They also protect paws from ice as well as salts and chemicals used to control ice (problematic both on the skin and if ingested). Don’t expect your dog to instantly enjoy or even tolerate these fashion accessories. Brief practice dress-up sessions with lots of loving (hugs, praise, yummies) is the ticket. If booties just aren’t going to be tolerated (dogs often find them more off-putting than coats) there are several commercially available wax-like ointments designed for cold weather that get rubbed directly onto a dog’s feet. Trim any long hair found on toes and in between the dogs’ pads (those leathery undersides of feet) to avoid the painful and potentially damaging ice balls which form when exposed to cold and wet. One last tip: anytime you and your animals are away from home, make sure pets wear identification which includes your cell number and/or local contact.