How to keep dogs healthy in winter

As winter has taken its steady hold on Utah, many Ogden residents have taken to the slopes to

(Source: Lexie Patterson)
(Source: Lexie Patterson) Lexie Patterson’s dog, River, leaps through the snow on Green Pond Loop during a snowshoeing excursion.

ski or snowboard in order to stay in shape over the snowy months. Oftentimes, Ogden’s canine residents’ needs for exercise are overlooked until the spring comes around again. Like humans, dogs require constant exercise to stay mentally and physically healthy.

“What I do is I take them (my dogs) snowshoeing, because they both love it,” said Lexie Patterson, geology junior at Weber State University. “They just get to run around because I don’t leash them. We go up to Green Pond. It’s great exercise for me and it’s great exercise for the dogs.”

Patterson said she’s found that if she’s more active with her dogs, they behave better and are healthier all around. Green Pond Loop is just one of many trails in Ogden that allows dogs.

“I think Ogden’s great because it has tons of trailheads that are super close,” Patterson said. “You could bring your dog on campus if you wanted and take it for a walk.”

Andrea Cox, representative for The Animal Park, a local pet care company in Ogden, recommends pulling sleds as a form of exercise for dogs throughout the winter. Sled-pulling has been around for thousands of years and requires a special harness to ensure the dog’s safety. Sled-pulls have been used for recreational purposes in dogsled races such as the Iditarod and the Yukon Quest.

While winter brings new possibilities for recreation with dogs, it also brings a greater need for caution in caring for canines. The American Kennel Club urges, “Feed your dog additional calories if it spends a lot of time outdoors or is a working animal. It takes more energy in the winter to keep body temperature regulated, so additional calories are necessary.”

The AKC also warns that antifreeze, which may accumulate on driveways during the winter, is lethal to dogs, though it tastes and smells good to them. Also, rock salt used to melt snow on the sidewalks may irritate dogs’ footpads, so the AKC urges dog owners to rinse off their dogs’ paws after walks.

An additional canine tip from the AKC is to “towel or blow-dry your dog if it gets wet from rain or snow. It is important to dry and clean its paws, too. This helps avoid tiny cuts and cracked pads. A little petroleum jelly may soften the pads and prevent further cracking.”

Patterson said she would like to see more dog parks come to Utah.

“My favorite thing is just to take them to the mountains — gives me an excuse to go.”