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Ways to Keep Your Dog Active During the Winter

One of the most essential things you provide your dog is daily opportunities to exercise and be active. When it’s cold outside, it can be challenging to find ways to get that movement every day. While the Nashville area is fortunate to enjoy moderate temperatures for most of the year, winter still brings dangerous temperatures. Since 2011, 5 Points Animal Hospital has been helping the residents of East Nashville find ways to exercise their dogs when the temperature has dropped below freezing. Here, we will share some of our favorites.

Pet Exercise in Winter

Don’t give up that walk!

You may have to dress yourself and your dog warmly, you can still go for your daily walks when it’s cold outside. If there is ice or snow on the sidewalks, PetMD reminds you that any salt or de-icing chemicals can be harmful to your dog. Be mindful of what your dog is walking on.If you notice any, rinse off his paws after your walk to keep them from becoming irritated and prevent your dog from ingesting any residue.

Make meals and treats more interesting

Another way to keep your dog active is to switch his food dish with a feeding toy for some of his meals. According to several veterinary studies, working for his food helps your dog enjoy it more, and this will also aid his digestion by slowing down how fast he eats. When the weather outside is cold and stormy, 5 Points Animal Hospital also recommends making treat time more interesting by playing hide-and-seek with your dog’s favorite treats.

Spend time practicing new tricks

Take advantage of spending more time indoors by training your dog to do simple tricks, such as “sit” and “stay”. Our staff can help you find the best online dog training resources to use. We recommend only working with your dog on new skills for about 15 minutes to keep your training sessions fun for everyone.

Keeping up with a daily exercise routine is important for your dog’s health and happiness, no matter what the weather may be outside. Contact us today at 5 Points Animal Hospital for any of your veterinary questions or concerns.

Why Dogs Can Walk on the Cold Ground on “Bare Feet”

If you like to dress your dog in a sweater during the winter, you may also want to get booties for your dog to protect his or her paws from the cold ground. However, your dog’s paws are made to tolerate any contact with cold surfaces, including snow and ice. While we humans need to wear thick socks and insulated boots to prevent frostbite, the circulatory system in the paws of our dogs has adapted to allow them to handle the cold. As soon as the temperature starts dropping, our staff at 5 Points Animal Hospital gets questions from our clients about whether or not their dogs need paw protection from the cold. We would like to answer some of the most frequently asked questions to help you understand why dogs can walk on the cold ground on “bare feet.”

Why Dogs Can Walk on the Cold Ground on "Bare Feet" Image - Nashville TN - 5 Points Animal Hospital

How do my dog’s paws stay protected from the cold?

According to VetStreet, researchers in the 1970’s investigated how wolves and foxes could hunt on their feet for extended periods in bitter cold temperatures. These researchers found that the temperature of the feet of these animals remained around 30 degrees Fahrenheit even when dipped in water of about minus 31 degrees Fahrenheit. The foot temperature is just warm enough to keep tissue from freezing and cool enough to prevent a large amount of heat loss through the paws. The reason for the stability of the foot temperature has to do with an infusion of blood to the paws that protects them from becoming too cold. Not too long ago, researchers at Azabu University in Japan tested this theory on dogs and came up with similar results.

How does my dog’s body stay warm when he or she walks on cold ground?

Thanks to a countercurrent heat exchange system in the blood vessels in dog paws, your dog’s body temperature is not greatly affected by walking on cold ground. The veins in the paws of your dog run parallel to the arteries. The arteries bring warm blood to the paws from the heart and transfer this heat to the neighboring veins. Less heat is lost from the body through the paws because the blood in the arteries is cooler when it gets to the paws. Similarly, your dog’s body is not cooled from the paws because the cold blood from the paws is warmed up as it travels to the heart. This helps conserve heat and prevent heat loss.

Are there any incidents where I would need to put booties on my dog?

Yes, dog booties and other types of winter footwear do serve some purposes. They give added paw insulation, prevent ice balls from getting lodged between foot pads, and protect against potentially toxic deicers on the sidewalks. Additionally, remember that just because your dog’s paws can stay warm, this does not mean your dog can be out in the cold for an unlimited time period as dogs are vulnerable to hypothermia and frostbite.

Questions about protecting your dog from cold weather? Contact us at 5 Points Animal Hospital to learn more tips on keeping your dog warm this winter.

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