Winter walks

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Although you may want to dive under the doona and snuggle up to your pooch when the chill of winter rolls in, there are simply
no excuses not to exercise. Unlike some animals (and humans) that hibernate during the winter months, most dogs enjoy being active, even when it’s cold outside. Daily exercise is an important part of dogs’ good health and wellbeing; it helps keep their weight in check, keeps them mentally stimulated and benefits their joints and muscles.

Exercising in winter can present some logistical and physical challenges, however, including icy roads, freezing winds, rain,
sleet or even snow. Check your local conditions before venturing outdoors. Unlike countries where snow is the winter norm, dogs down under aren’t normally exposed to chemical de-icers, which can burn and crack a dog’s paws. Animal physiotherapist Sandra Sharpe from Brisbane Veterinary Specialist Centre suggests trimming the fur between your dog’s toes for extra grip if roads are slippery. “And if it’s extra chilly outdoors, your dog could also benefit from wearing  special rubber-soled booties to provide protection and warmth, particularly if they have arthritis in their paws,” she says. Rug up before you head outdoors with a warm winter coat and add a waterproof jacket if it looks like rain. Dry your dog thoroughly on your return so he doesn’t
catch a chill. The days are shorter in winter, too, so adjust the times you walk your pooch. If that’s not possible, wear reflective clothing and buy a reflective coat or LED collar for your dog. Dr Matthew Best from Brisbane Veterinary Specialist Centre says it’s also important to be careful about antifreeze — dogs may lick it from the garage floor if it drips from a car’s radiator. “It has a sweet taste that dogs find palatable, but it’s poison and can cause illness or even death,” he says. For many dogs, off -leash beaches are part of their exercise routine and if it’s warm where you live in winter, there’s no reason why your dog can’t swim. Be aware, though, there are few lifesavers about and there might be more rubbish on beaches with less frequent clean-ups.
Also, dangerous surf conditions such as rips can occur regardless of the season. If it’s too cold to swim and your
arthritic dog is used to swimming in summer, Sandra recommends introducing a walking program that increases in
increments. “Start with a short lead walk and build the distance or duration gradually,” she advises. “Walking is loadbearing
and your dog will need to get accustomed to the impact on their joints. Dogs with arthritis will generally cope with shorter walks, i.e. 30 minutes, one to two times daily rather than one long walk per day.”

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