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Winter Care

Chihuahua Winter Care

How to Winterize Your Chihuahua

Overview

For those of you who will be experiencing cold air and/or snowfall during the winter, it is time to prepare your Chihuahua for what is perhaps the season that he/she needs the most specialized care. The dry arid air during the winter, along with cold temperatures can physically affect a Chihuahua of any age. In addition, there are going to be some behavioral changes to be aware of as well. For this reason, this page will cover everything you need to know about wintering your Chihuahua puppy, dog or senior. 

We will go over:
  • Paws
  • Nose
  • Coat & Skin
  • Regulating Body Temp
  • Runny Nose, dry eyes in the winter
  • Mood, Appetite and Activity
Paw Protection

One of the biggest menaces of winter is the change to a Chihuahua's walking surfaces. There are 2 main issues with this:
Chihuahua bundled up in blanket
Princess, 13 years old
Photo courtesy of Tanya Godson-Roy
1) The cold. While you might think that the air is cold in the winter, it is even colder down low where your Chihuahua will be walking. Cold air sinks and the temperature near ground level is often colder than above. Roads hold in the cold as well. Add to that frozen ice or snow and you have a surface that can greatly affect a tiny dog's paws. 

Over the course of the season, paws can get super dried out. In worse case scenarios, they can peel and then crack, causing quite a bit of discomfort. Once the paw skin is cracked, it is then vulnerable to infection. 

2) Ice melt. Many ice melt chemicals are toxic to canines if ingested but also can cause chemical burns to their paws (and points on the body that come into contact with it). Even if you do not use these sorts of products, many town and city municipals do; they spread them on roadways and that can easily get tracked into your neighborhood via cars. 

Over days and weeks of walking over these wintertime chemicals, gradual injury to the paw skin can occur. This is often over the full bottom of the pad and will start off looking like peeled skin. Over time, the burns can deepen, causing both pain and possibility of infection.
What to do: A vital part of Chihuahua winter care is to protect your dog's paws. This can be done in one of two ways:

1- Use a quality paw wax. A good canine paw wax gives a dog good traction on slippery winter surfaces and creates a layer of protection against harmful elements. It will help the paws retain moisture and repel anything that causes damage (including hot surfaces in the summertime). If a Chihuahua already has cracked paws, a quality wax can repair the damage and restore the skin. You'll want to look for one that absorbs fast and lasts for a good amount of time. Quality waxes only need to be applied about once every 3 days. 

2- The other option is to place dog booties on your Chihuahua. Some dogs love this, others not so much. If you decide to go this route, look for booties that have adjustable ankle closures to ensure a good fit and to make sure that they stay on. Also, look for winter booties that have good traction of the soles. 
Winter Nose Protection

Winter can be devastating to a dog's nose. The cold dry air along with whipping winter winds can quickly chap a Chihuahua's nose. And this can quickly domino into a big problem before an owner has time to respond; so it is best to be proactive about this and make winter care include the nose as well. 

One of the problems with this is that dogs often lick their noses all day long. So once the nose is a bit chapped, constant licking will worsen the problem. A dry nose can quickly turn into a peeling nose and this can spin out of control into a cracked nose, which is quite painful and as with paws can be vulnerable to bacterial infection. 

What to do: Use a quality canine nose butter or balm before there is any damage. These do two things: They protect a dog's nose from dry air and cold winds and also will treat drying that may have occurred already. 

Since Chihuahuas lick their noses a lot (you might not even notice unless you purposefully take note - that little tongue laps up quickly), you'll want to choose a nose butter that absorbs quickly and also one that is safe if a dog were to lap at it before it is dry. 

For protection use, apply a dab to your Chihuahua once in the morning and once right before your dog goes to sleep.

For healing purposes for dry, peeling or cracked noses, apply this 3 to 4 times per day, including a good amount right as your Chihuahua is falling asleep. With the right product, results can be seen in as little as 1 to 2 applications. 
Coat & Skin Protection

Cold winter air does a number on a dog's skin and coat. For the entire season, the air is dramatically drier than in the spring and summer, so this often has a building, negative effect. The skin will begin to dry out and the fur can become coarse and dry. In fact, some Chihuahuas will develop such dry fur that if you were to rub a piece between your fingers, it would feel hard and crispy, similar to hay. 

This is a compounding problem, where dry skin affects the fur and the dry fur does little to protect the body. While issues can be fixed with some effort, it is best to prevent this sort of winter related issue from developing in the first place. 
What to do: There are several grooming elements that can help keep your Chihuahua's skin and coat healthy throughout the winter and also some additional steps you can take:

1- Reassess your Chihuahua's shampoo and conditioner. If you are not fully pleased with your dog's bath products, now is the time to decide if a change should be made. 

It is important to use a canine shampoo that is effective at removing body oil buildup and debris in the coat BUT one that does not strip away too much oil, thus leaving the skin dry and vulnerable to peeling. 

For conditioner, you want to use a product that properly coats the strands of fur without clogging skin pores. Those formulated with oatmeal and other high quality ingredients for optimal coat & skin health is vital. 
two Chihuahuas sitting on sofa
Ruby Ru & Clara Su, 5 & 4 years old
Photo courtesy of Lori & Harry Scatton
2- Time the baths. Stay on schedule with giving baths every 3 weeks. You may think that baths are not needed as much in the winter especially if your Chihuahua is inside a lot more than during warm weather, however baths are not just to remove dirt; they are to rid the skin and fur of excess body oils that are being constantly produced; at the 3 week mark there is enough that it can start to smell and tiny furs that shed off trap this near the skin's surface, making it even worse. 

3- Use a leave-in. If there were any one element that was needed for winter care to keep a Chihuahua's coat healthy, it is a quality leave-in spritz. (This is also an important grooming element in the summer as well, due to the sun). A good spritz will do several things:

1. Protect the fur from dry air - It will create a barrier from winter's outside elements and from dry air that is commonly indoors in the winter as well.  

2. Prevent the coat from getting contact friction damage and static. 

3. Seal the strands to prevent split ends.

Look for a quality spray that is light yet offers protection and as a plus, you may want to choose one that also emits a light, fresh fragrance to keep your Chihuahua smelling nice. This should ideally be applied once per day - You will want to mist the coat, holding the bottle about 5 to 6 inches away and then distribute it from roots to ends with a small soft bristle brush. 

Take care to not overdo it; you only want to lightly coat the fur, not drench it.  
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Wintertime Care Regarding Cold Temperatures

Out of all of the different dog breeds, it is perhaps the Chihuahua that has the most trouble with regulating body temperature. Being very tiny and with hardly any fat at all to insulate the body, Chihuahuas get cold very easily. Did you know that this is the main reason why Chihuahuas shake so much? It is not because they are nervous; it is due to feeling chilled. 
In addition, a Chihuahua can feel chilly in a house that seems perfectly warm enough to you. Cold drafts are mainly to blame for this. When a human is up on furniture, they may not realize that there are chilly spots near the floor where pets play and rest. 

Many owners do not realize how uncomfortable their Chihuahua was until they slip a shirt on their puppy or dog and then notice how much happier he/she seems to be. 

What to do: 

1. Bundle up your Chihuahua when you take him outside. This is critical for housebreaking puppies, since one of the main issues that comes up is when owners do not stay outside long enough for the pup to relax his bladder and bowel muscles. 

It's cold, the owner is freezing and the puppy looks chilled… so not enough time is spent allowing the Chihuahua to learn to use his designated bathroom area.

However, this is also a concern in regard to taking your Chihuahua outside for his regular exercise. Who wants to go out when it's frigid out? But, if you bundle up and properly cloth your Chihuahua, this will help you stay on track making sure he meets his exercise requirements. 
Long haired Chihuahuas
Dottie (8 months) & Grace (3 yrs)
Photo courtesy of Vicky Tyson
A quality vest, hoodie or even parka (for sub-freezing days) will help keep a Chihuahua's body warm. If there is wet snowfall, you'll want to opt for a water-proof garment. 

2. For indoors, you'll be surprised how many Chihuahuas love to have a shirt or sweater on; in fact many find it rather comforting and will resist having it removed. So for inside, opt for a light shirt (short or long sleeve) that offers a layer of protection that often makes all the difference in the world. 

3. Check your house for drafts. You'll have to get down to floor level to see what your dog is experiencing. If you identify any winter drafts you can either work to block them (the best option to help lower your heating bill) or move your dog's resting/sleeping/play area to a warmer spot. 
Winter Runny Nose and Dry, Red Eyes

Winter care for a Chihuahua may also need to include taking steps to prevent or treat the sniffles and red eye issues that a lot of dogs can get during the winter. This is often due to overly dry air in the house. Cold air cannot hold moisture like warm air does. The air in your house is the same arid air from outside; the only difference is that it is heated…but heating it does not add moisture, in fact it takes it way.

For this reason, over the course of the winter, a Chihuahua can get red, irritated eyes and/or a bit of a runny nose or a blocked nose. It can also cause a Chihuahua to develop nighttime snoring. In addition, this same winter indoor environment is detrimental to skin and coat. 

What to do: Add moisture. One of the most effective ways to do this is to use humidifiers. If you don't have enough for the whole house, it will be best to place one near the dog's sleeping area.

Do be sure to clean the filters often and keep cords out of reach from your dog. Other (yet less effective methods) include putting out lots of houseplants, leaving out bowls of water and/or leaving the bathroom door open when showering. 

Note: If your Chihuahua is very congested, is coughing, has excessive or thick nasal discharge, has a fever, does not improve with treatments to add moisture and/or has any worsening conditions, bring your puppy or dog to the veterinarian. This could be a case of infection that needs to be treated with antibiotics, may be a dust mite allergy or other health condition that needs to be professionally treated. 
yin yang Chihuahuas
Poppy & Brucie
Photo courtesy of Sharrel Carroll
How Winter Affects a Chihuahua's Mood, Eating and Activity Level

Did you ever want to stay inside on a cold, snowy day to just binge watch a good show and eat comfort foods? Well, your Chihuahua may want to do the same thing (just swap TV for toys)! It is common for dogs to eat a bit more, move around less and even get a tad depressed with a sort of canine cabin fever.

What to do:

Food Issues - It is common for dogs to eat more in the winter and less in the summer. The difference can be as much as 20%. For the Chihuahua breed, this is not usually a problem, as this breed rarely becomes overweight. Since they will 'make up for it' once the weather starts getting nice again, if your Chihuahua seems to want more food during colder months, it's fine to add an extra treat or to make meal portions a tad larger. 
Mood & Activity - If there was one thing that most affected a dog's mood and his ability to stay calm when in the house, it would be his exercise and activity level. The duration and frequency that a Chihuahua is purposefully walked each day plays a huge role in his behavior when back inside. It is a myth that toy sized breeds 'self-exercise' via their movement indoors. This breed can have issues with pent-up energy if they are not exercised enough. So unless there is a blizzard or sub-freezing temperatures, do keep up with taking your Chihuahua outside for walks. 

You may have to adjust your route if snow blocks the way or time the evening walks a bit earlier since the sun sets early. And be sure to take steps to keep your Chi warm and with nose and paws protected (see above). 

Summary

If you forget about shoveling…and having to warm a car up… and heating bills… winter can be a lovely time of the year. And while dog ownership is a bit trickery during the winter, if you take steps to start preparing now, it will help make things much easier as you eagerly wait for springtime. 
Things you may wish to do now:

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