Winter isn’t kind to disabled dogs… it’s cold, it’s slippery and makes for long days indoors. So what dog wouldn’t like to spend some time outside with his special person? It can be done, but it takes a little preparation.
Disabled dogs are often more susceptible to hypothermia so it pays to invest in a warm coat for your dog. If he’s been indoors a lot, he’ll get colder quicker. If your dog doesn’t have use of his back legs, you may want to improvise some kind of leg warmers too since the muscles will not keep him warm with movement. Old wool socks, with the toe cut out safety pinned to the back of the coat will keep legs with marginal circulation warm. Dog booties are also good because not only do they provide traction on ice, they keep feet off salt and chemicals used to get rid of ice. They also keep the feet with compromised circulation warm. There are tall boots available as well and stirrups that attach to a cart that keep the feet from dragging on the cold ground. If you use a boot, get something with good traction and easy to put on. Lastly, if your dog uses a cart, a pair of skis instead of wheels can be very handy in snow. Whereas wheels tend to pack up with snow and not turn, the skis will let him glide over icy patches and even fairly deep snow with ease.
You’ll want to stick to shoveled or at least fairly level paths, however. A dog that can still walk on his own may be unsteady on uneven snow. He’ll feel more secure if the path has been groomed and he doesn’t have to navigate through deep snow or very slippery ice. One thing you might consider is letting the nails grow a tad longer on his legs that still work. It will give him more traction and gripping power in snow and ice if you don’t use booties.
Remember that the cold will sap some of his energy – so start slowly. Make sure you don’t get too far away from a place to warm up and rest. It’s not fun carrying a large dog AND his cart back when he becomes too exhausted! Always be a good neighbor and bring poop bags for unexpected accidents.
If you must drive to get to your winter walk destination, a ramp may be helpful for getting your pet in and out of your vehicle. You might want to bring along some chemical heat packs in case either of you get too chilled – just don’t let him lay on it as they can cause burns and many disabled dogs can’t move easily to get away from or off the source of heat. Always bring water – you can keep it from freezing by keeping it in a cooler. Whereas play is hard work for a healthy dog, it’s even harder work for a disabled dog – but they will so appreciate it and it’s good for circulation and muscle development. Just because it’s winter, doesn’t mean your handicapped dog doesn’t need or want exercise!