After what could be described as a fairly balmy December for most of us, now that January has arrived the cold snap of winter has shown itself.
So what we can we do to make sure our dogs are as happy and healthy as possible?
As a Canine Massage Therapist and someone who has regular massage themselves (why should dogs get all the fun?) my top ‘go to’ winter remedy is massage treatment. You might think that’s a little indulgent at a time when we are all trying to save our pennies, but you might be surprised to know that Canine Massage is not a pampering session for your dog. The best person in the world to give your dog fuss and strokes is you! Whereas Canine Massage is a drug-free, natural and results driven therapy that can significantly improve a dog’s quality of life when performed by a skilled practitioner.
Here’s why winter is the perfect time for your dog to receive massage treatment;
- It boosts the immune system and increases the flow of lymph around the body, helping your dog cope with the nasty germs that fly around at this time of year.
- It improves circulation by pumping blood and oxygen around your dog’s body, naturally lowering blood pressure and improving how every system in the body functions.
- Going into cold air and back into the dry heat of your home repeatedly can cause your dog to have dry, flaky skin. Massage increases sebum and collagen production, gets rid of dead cells and overall makes for healthier skin and coat.
- Warms the dog’s muscles, especially important as cold weather can contribute to tense, rigid muscles and fascia. Massage also improves elasticity and flexibility, helping your dog to feel comfortable and agile.
- Often conditions like arthritis and hip dysplasia can flare up and be more painful in these chilly months. Massage is a form of natural pain relief that can significantly support dogs with orthopeadic conditions.
- Icy ground and puddles mean that dogs are often slipping and falling in winter. Massage encourages dogs to weight bear fully on all limbs, improves posture, balance and gait to help them cope.
- It makes your dog feel good! Massage produces endorphins that help to relieve stress and anxiety, essential at this time of year when we and our dogs miss the sunshine!
Here are some other fantastic ways to keep your dog safe and cosy which every owner should have in their winter survival guide;
- It sounds obvious, but short coated breeds really feel the chill. Invest in a good quality dog coat, especially if your dog is elderly or suffers from an orthopeadic condition. Check out the brilliant Back on Track products as they reflect body heat back into the body as a FAR Infrared wave which helps to improve circulation and reduce inflammation, thereby helping to improve your dog’s comfort and mobility levels. Many of my clients swear by these and I really see the benefits when I treat their dogs.
- Keep the fur between your dog’s toes trimmed and their nails at a healthy length. This will help them to grip the ground properly and not get ice balls or chemicals trapped in their fur. Massaging paw wax into the paws is also a thoughtful way to protect your dog’s feet and keep them from slipping over. This can also work wonders if you have laminate floors in your home and often see your dog slipping on it, although the best solution for this is to put rugs down. This will also help to keep your house warm – a winter bonus!
- Chocolate, antifreeze and other chemicals used in ice melting e.g. grit, are all very helpful in getting humans through winter but they are highly poisonous to dogs. Wash and dry your dog (particularly feet) after walks, especially if you suspect antifreeze was on the ground and never let your dog drink from puddles.
- Your dog can easily lose calories in winter, especially if you’re keeping up the same levels of exercise as you would in summer. Perhaps you’re a die hard canicross fan or you take part in agility over the winter months. Keep an eye on your dog’s weight and condition and adjust food appropriately. On the flip side, don’t get tempted to overfeed just because you feel like comfort eating! Overfeeding causes excess weight on the joints and doesn’t do your canine friend any good.
- There are also fantastic supplements out there to keep your dog healthy such as Glucosamine and Omega 3. Be sure to do your research and speak to your vet if you’re unsure about adding them to your dog’s diet
- Although obvious for the dog savvy, some are surprised to learn that dogs can suffer frostbite and hypothermia too. It’s a common misconception that a dog’s fur alone will protect against these conditions but they are dangerous and life threatening. If the temperature outside is freezing or below then be extra careful with exposure to the outside and look out for signs such as shivering, weakness, change of tissue colour and ice on the body or limbs. Frostbite most commonly affects the tips of the ears, the tail, the scrotum and the feet and smaller breeds are more susceptible.
Now that you’re hopefully feeling inspired, take a look at the Canine Massage Guild therapist register to find your local practitioner and book your dog in for some winter warming!
Author: Carly Vincent
For more information please visit Carly Vincent’s biography