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Top 5 Winter Health Tips from a Rehab Veterinary Specialist

By Antinol Team

Director of Integrative and Rehabilitative Medicine Animal Medical Center - New York

Our pets need some special attention to ensure they stay fit and healthy as the winter months approach. One of the most significant problems I see in my patients as it gets cold outside is worsening arthritis symptoms and weight gain.

Here are my top tips for keeping your pooch healthy during the winter:

1. Stay active:

When it's cold outside, we all tend to stay inside where it's warm and cozy. This inactivity can lead to more achy joints. Our body is meant to MOVE! So even if the weather is less than ideal, try to go out for daily leash walks. You can shorten the walk if snow is actively falling, but don't skip it! You can also get creative and walk up and down your hallways or play indoor games with toys, tug of war, or hide special treats around the home. Aim for 3-4 daily walks 10-20 min each.

2. Stay trim:

Another common winter habit is putting on a couple of extra pounds. While this may not be a big deal for a person, it can be a big issue for a little (or even larger) dog! When you are bored at home, an extra treat adds up quickly, especially if your pooch is less active. Keep in mind that small little nibbles add up quickly for a smaller animal. For example, did you know that feeding a small piece of cheese (60 g) to your pet is equivalent to us eating two donuts? This is not a healthy choice! To keep your dog healthy through the winter, they must not put on extra weight, which is tough on their joints. Keep the food portions the same (or LOWER if they are less active) and avoid extra unnecessary snacks.

3. Stay warm:

We always put on a coat when we are getting ready to go outside in the cold. We may assume that dogs don't need an extra sweater because dogs have a natural fur coat. Think twice! Your dog has adapted to a warm indoor environment. If you are going out for longer than a 20 min walk in temperatures below freezing (320 F or 00 C), please put a coat on your pooch!

4. Protect the paws:

When the snow starts falling, the roads get salted. This means your dog can get exposed to salt, which can be very abrasive and cause burning wounds on their paws. To avoid this, you can: a) put protective boots on their paws, b) apply protective Musher's wax on their paws c) wash their paws off with warm, mildly soapy water when they get home

5. Massage:

With colder weather and less activity comes achy joints and muscles. Aside from keeping up leash walks, a daily massage will go a long way to keeping those joints and muscles happy! Get yourself comfy and start with a slow and rhythmic massage all over your pet's body. Keep it positive, and don't force anything your dog is not liking. Spend extra time on muscles that are tight and move the joints slowly to get the circulation going.

For more tips on massage and exercise techniques, check out my instructional video:

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