It can be a challenge to stay motivated to exercise in winter, this is as true for us as it is for our pets. Shorter days and colder, wetter weather can make leaving your house seem like a chore.
But winter is coming, so get your dog ready! Follow these top tips for walking and looking after your dog's health, whatever the weather.
Winter dog walking tips
Our dogs rely on us to ensure they are well-exercised, and a walk is great mental stimulation. Dog walks are also beneficial to our own mental health so it's really important for you both to keep up your dog walks throughout the cold, dark months.
Since the Covid pandemic, many of us have been working from home more, which can really open up some options for squeezing a daylight do walk in.
Could you fit in your main dog walk at lunchtime? It’s a way to break up the day and get time away from the screen.
If you're instead considering moving your dog’s walk to earlier in the evening, be sure it doesn’t clash with meal times. Ideally, dogs should have a two-hour window either side of doing any exercise to help prevent bloat. this is particularly important in higher risk breeds (typically larger, deeper-chested dogs).
Consider your route before you leave the house, is it well-lit or near roads? Do you or your dog need any safety accessories to make you easy to spot? Check out our guide to useful dog accessories for low-light walks.
If you're walking your dog alone, you may wish to take a whistle and your mobile phone. Bring a torch if walking somewhere dark. It's not just to light your way – it can be really hard to spot your dog's poo on dark winter evenings.
And if you’re anything like me and my dog, you might want to shine a torch on occasion to check they aren’t sniffing something unsavoury!
Avoid winter health worries
There are a few things to be observant of on winter walks...
Rock salt can harm your dog
Rock salt is sometimes used on pavements and roads and it can cause sores on dogs' skin and an upset tummy if ingested. Even if small amounts are ingested it can lead to high blood sodium, which affects dogs' kidneys.
Always wash their feet and legs if you see it on their fur. If you suspect they've ingested some, seek veterinary advice.
Antifreeze in puddles
At any time of year you should try to stop your dog drinking from puddles or stagnant water. But during the winter months, there's a higher risk of antifreeze spilling into puddles.
If a dog ingests antifreeze it can cause serious health problems and it isn’t always immediately obvious something is wrong. As with all toxins contact your vet.
For other toxins to look out for in the damper months see our guide to mushroom poisoning in dogs.
Our vet expert Dr Sophie Bell says that November to May and June to October are the times we typically see cases of Alabama Rot. Although the number of deaths due to this condition is low, it is still important to be aware of it and to check your dog regularly.
The condition can cause small non-healing five pence-size skin lesions mainly found on the extremities, abdomen, and muzzle. They are slow-healing wounds that may increase in size and start to look ulcerated. The condition can lead to kidney failure, which is why it is important to get any small suspicious skin wounds, where you have not witnessed any trauma, investigated.
Warm up before going out in the cold
Dr Bell also suggests warming your dog up before a walk with using some basic stretches. She says the colder weather can aggravate arthritis and lead to more soft tissue injury if the muscles are cold and the walk is long or vigorous.