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Top 11 Winter Safety Tips For Your Dog

image of two siberian huskies

Are you looking forward to snowy days and cheerful play sessions with your pet dog in the fresh snow? Or are you feeling apprehensive about your sensitive little buddy? With winter being just around the corner, there are a few things to keep in mind when your beloved pup’s well-being is concerned.

Winter can be a period full of joy and fun for you and your pup. However, it is also the time you ought to take some measures to keep your pet safe and healthy. Our best winter safety tips  will be outlined in this article.

 Some dogs are more fragile and do not tolerate cold winter days as well as our more robust furry friends. So, let us make you familiar with the most common facts, possible dangers, and ways of handling winter-related issues.

Winter and Dog Facts

snowy dog image

Dogs Lose Their Sense of Scent During Snowstorms

We are all aware of how reliant dogs are on their sense of smell. However, winter is the time when this sense weakens considerably or is entirely lost. It is most likely to happen during severe snowstorms.

What this means in practice is that a dog will be less likely  to smell their way back home, ending up caught and lost in harsh weather conditions. To prevent this, always keep your dog safely on a leash.

Sick, Old and Nursing Dogs are More Vulnerable to the Cold

Some canines are more vulnerable and are at higher risk in cold winter weather. Dogs whose health is impaired, require a more significant deal of care at this time of year. The same goes for senior canines, as well as females who have only recently got puppies and are still nursing their litter.

Keep a close eye on your pet if it belongs to any of the aforementioned mentioned categories. Make sure they are warm and safe in cold weather.

Some Breeds Can Endure Cold Temperatures Longer

Not all dog breeds are equally tolerant of cold weather. As a matter of fact, some will feel exhilarated about being able to run and play in the snow during chilly winter days. Some of them will, on the other hand, feel too cold to find it enjoyable.

Breeds such as Malamutes, Labradors, Newfoundlands, and Huskies can put up with cold weather with no difficulty at all. For others, like Chihuahuas or Greyhounds, winter is far from being their favorite season of the year.

Coats Help Them Feel Warmer

The length and thickness of your buddy’s coat can have a significant impact on how well they will withstand sub-zero temperatures. A longer coat will keep your pet warm during crisp winter days. In contrast , short-haired breeds may not feel as warm and comfortable when the temperature drops substantially.

For this reason, it is recommended to trim your pet’s hair  less frequently than during other seasons.

Snow is Not Safe for Dogs to Eat

Many pups are inquisitive, and they will not hesitate to taste the fluffy white substance covering the ground. They will plunge into the pile of snow and start munching away with great zeal. No matter how cute this may look, you should  stop your furry pal from doing so.

Why is this potentially dangerous for your pup? Well, though it may look perfectly clean, snow could be hiding many hazardous things – rubbish, chemicals, animal waste, or salt. You can never be sure that your pet will keep away from those, so the wisest idea is to offer them enough fresh water.

If eaten in large amounts, snow can reduce your canine’s core temperature, which can reflect negatively on their health.

Puppies Have Extreme Reactions to Cold

The younger your puppy, the greater deal of care and attention they require. When  spending time outdoors in extremely low temperatures, it is crucial to remember that they are far more sensitive than adult canines. Their body is not able to acclimate to extreme changes in temperatures so quickly.

To keep your baby pup safe and healthy, try to limit their time outdoors [1] as much as possible. In other words, staying in and keeping warm and cozy is the safest way for your puppy to spend the winter.

image of two golden retriever puppies wearing scarves

Possible Dangers that Canines May Experience in Winter

Hypothermia

Pups who do not react well to being left out in the cold for too long, are more prone to developing hypothermia [2]. This condition is marked by a considerable drop in a canine’s body temperature. When it occurs, your pet’s heart rate and breathing will slow down to a great extent, which can have several serious health consequences.

To avoid this, make sure your pet is provided with a warm place to sleep and make sure they do not get exposed to freezing temperatures for too long.

Falling or Slipping on Ice

Icy surfaces, such as frozen ponds or lakes, can be a source of endless joy during the freezing winter months. Many dogs are thrilled about sliding across such surfaces. However, this is definitely to be avoided, as it carries several potential risks for your best friend’s safety.

There have been many cases of ice cracking underneath the pups’ ( and their owners’) feet, and dramatic instances of more or less successful rescue missions. Moreover, energetic play activities on ice can result in muscle or limb injuries, such as broken bones or sprains. It’s better to stay off the ice for everybody’s health

white bulldog peeks out

Frostbite

Some parts of your furry friend’s body may be affected by the cold in quite a negative way. Consequently, it is not unusual for tails, ears, and paws to develop frostbite [3], which can present an alarming problem.

The affected body part will typically change color, turning pale, bluish, or gray. It  will also feel cold, brittle and painful to touch. A frostbitten part may develop skin ulcers or blisters.

Accidental Ingestion of De-icers or Antifreeze

Winter days and sub-zero temperatures will result in extensive use of antifreeze. Even if you are cautious about its usage and keep it out of your pet pup’s reach, there is an increased risk that your dog will come across it out in the street.

Usually green in color ( although variations are present), this chemical can be extremely harmful if swallowed [4]. Even a small amount of it will cause symptoms such as vomiting, panting, excessive thirst, seizures, lethargy, or drooling.

If you suspect your pal of having ingested antifreeze, seek professional medical attention immediately.

Skin Irritations

As is the case with human skin, cold weather can impact negatively on your canine’s skin, too. It is not surprising to find dogs suffering from different skin-related issues during the coldest part of the year. Most of them tend to develop dry, flaky, and itchy skin, which calls for additional care.

Your pup’s skin has a natural level of moisture and oil. If you give your pet frequent baths during winter months, the result can be some of the problems mentioned above. If this happens, consult your vet to work out the best type of treatment.

Arthritis Pain for Senior Dogs

If your aged buddy suffers the symptoms of arthritis [5], you may expect them to worsen during the cold winter months. In this period, your senior pet may experience a higher intensity of pain in their joints. You will also notice them moving with greater difficulty.

Even if they stay indoors most of the time, such canines will find it hard standing up and using the stairs . Adequate medication prescribed by a vet can bring  considerable relief in such situations.

Cold Injuries

Being out in the cold can potentially result in various types of injuries, even after an ordinary daily walk. That is why your dog needs to be looked after properly throughout winter.

Your pet’s paws are at the highest risk of getting injured, so you should always look out for even the smallest sign of injury. Since they are in direct touch with the ground, they may develop frostbite. Additionally, de-icers and salt can be very aggressive when in contact with animal paws.

Knowing all this, try to protect your pup by providing them with dog booties.. Some substances containing wax can be applied to the pads to keep them protected.

furry dog enjoying in the snow

Warning Signs that Your Dog Feels Cold

Low Body Temperature

Cold weather can often be responsible for an abnormal drop in your canine’s body temperature – a condition known as hypothermia. It can have three stages, from mild to severe, and if it progresses, it can have devastating consequences to your pet’s overall health.

Breeds more prone to developing the symptoms of this condition are small, thin-coated ones. It is accompanied by shivering, lack of alertness, slow heart rate, and difficulty breathing.

Shivering

For some pups, time spent outdoors, away from the comfort of a cozy room, is anything but enjoyable. One of the certain signs which indicate that your puppy is not dealing well with low temperatures, snow, and ice is continuous shivering.

 A dog, especially one with a shorter hair and thinner coat, loses their body heat more quickly than the one with thick fur. Intense shaking of the entire body means your buddy is feeling uncomfortably cold. Make sure you take them back inside and warm up as quickly as possible.

Anxiety

Some dogs that are not at all fond of winter activities and walks in harsh weather conditions, will most likely show their reluctance any time you get ready to take him outside. What is more, quite a few of them will develop symptoms of anxiety. That is usually the result of an increased level of stress and feeling of discomfort associated with time spent out in the cold. 

It is essential for the owner to recognize the signals which point to the existence of this issue and address it swiftly.

Lacking Energy

In chilly winter days, it is not unusual for a frisky little dynamo to turn into a lazy and lethargic couch potato. Some pups simply seem to go through a low-energy phase during icy weather.

You will find them snuggled up on their favorite blanket for the largest part of a day, rather than taking part in long walks or energetic play sessions.

Whining

Some canines loathe feeling cold and engaging in outdoor activities in wintry weather. They will not hesitate to make it clear by following a particular behavioral pattern every time you take them out.

One possible reaction to feeling uncomfortable and cold is excessive whining. If it persists, it is obviously your pet’s way of getting his message across – get me out of here and help me keep warm.

image of playful shiba inu

How to Keep Your Dogs Warm During Cold Weather

1.

Let Them Stay Indoors

It takes some time to get used to a sudden drop in temperature, so do not be surprised if your dog does not feel enthusiastic about being outdoors for too long. Even if they have a thicker and longer coat, acclimation should be taking place one step at a time.

If you decide to stay most of the time indoors, make some effort to design a couple of entertaining activities that will keep your pup in shape.

2.

Invest in Warm Winter Clothing

Apart from looking adorable, pets’ clothes play an extremely significant role in keeping your pup warm in severe weather. Coats, sweaters, caps, and booties will take good care of your buddy’s most sensitive body parts. They will make them feel pleasantly heated and will prevent hypothermia and frostbite.

For all these reasons, investing in well-fitted, quality winter clothing items for your beloved pet is a wise thing to do.

3.

Rinse Paws With Warm Water

Your pet’s paws  experience the majority of the harmful effects of cold weather. Skittering along on snow and ice-covered pavements and frozen ground, can do quite a lot of harm to their feet. Plus, they are in direct contact with chemicals used for de-icing.

All these may lead to irritations, itching, frostbite, and dry skin on the pads. To avoid  this , always wash your pup’s paws after your time outside is over. Use warm water and rinse all the remaining traces of salt and chemicals thoroughly.

4.

Trim Foot Fur

Long hair on your pal’s feet can cause quite a few problems, especially during the winter’s snowy days. It will retain snow and ice, thus creating ice balls that usually get stuck between the toes and pads. If they stay glued to a paw for too long, they make moving increasingly difficult and may eventually result in injuries or frostbite.

Trim your buddy’s hair on a regular basis, leveling it off with the surface of the foot.

5.

Bundle Up With Blankets

It feels so good being bundled up with soft blankets when the weather takes a turn for the worse. Your canine will appreciate having a warm place to snuggle into during cold winter days and nights.

Make sure their favorite blanket or pillow is always there as it will help to retain body temperature without getting cold and feel more comfortable overall.

6.

Avoid Antifreeze

When the winter comes, you can find traces of antifreeze all over the place. That is why owners have to be particularly alert and look out for any signs of these chemicals ( ethylene glycol).

Sweet in taste and harmless for humans, it poses an enormous threat to your dog’s safety. Even the smallest amount can cause severe kidney failure. It is thus essential to keep a close eye on whatever your pet is sniffing or licking.

image of dog in a snow wearing coat and boots

7.

Use Dog Boots to Protect Their Paws

Your puppy’s paws are their most vulnerable body part when freezing weather is concerned. They are most likely to suffer injuries, abrasions, or other types of issues due to their direct exposure to ice and snow.

Luckily, getting your pup a set of booties or specially designed paw protectors can make a vast difference. Though some canines may be reluctant to wear these, it is  worthwhile making an effort and helping them come to terms with these useful winter accessories.

8.

Never Leave Your Pet in the Car

Although we may believe our car to be a safe place to leave our dog while we are running an errand or two, this is actually a huge misconception. When the weather is cold, the temperature in the car can drop considerably in no time, and a dog trapped inside will be unable to warm up . 

Your buddy may well end up catching a severe cold or even hypothermia. In more radical cases, it can also have fatal consequences.

9.

Don't Bathe Them Often

Your pet’s regular hygiene-related routine may call for specific changes in cold winter months. The impact of weather on your pup’s fur and skin is usually reflected through increased itchiness, flaky, and dry skin.

Frequent baths can only make the situation worse, as essential body oils get washed out, reducing the skin moisture. If you, however, do not feel like skipping the bathtime, find out which shampoo will maintain an optimal level of skin moisture.

10.

Keep Your Pooch Hydrated

Most of us tend to get quite inactive when it is freezing cold outside. We do not feel like going outdoors and engaging in too much physical activity. It is not surprising for our pets to share this feeling.

Still, even though we seem to be confined to our homes, regular exercise is significant in helping your pooch stay active and healthy. If you are resourceful enough, there is an abundance of games you can play with your pet inside your home, having a great time together.

image of Dachshund playing in the snow

11.

Let Them Exercise

Water is a vital element for your dog’s overall well-being. It is  essential to supply them with plenty of fresh water for proper hydration at all times.

Though the amount they drink in a day may be  smaller compared to scorching summer months, you must always  make sure that there is enough fresh water available.

When the temperature goes below zero degrees, always check to make sure that the water in your pup’s bowl has not turned into ice.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it safe to walk a dog in cold weather?

The answer to this question is a tricky one, as no dog is the same and each one tolerates cold weather differently. It is widely believed that if it feels too cold for you to go out, your dog will feel the same. 

You should  be aware of the amount of time you spend outside and pay attention to the additional feeling of cold added by the windchill. It is advisable to reduce the amount of walking time to prevent body temperature drops or frostbite. 

Despite the harsh weather conditions, dogs still need to maintain an active lifestyle. However, if the temperature drops below freezing, no dog should be outside.

How cold is too cold for puppies?

What feels to be a pleasantly chilly temperature for one dog, may be a source of discomfort for another one. Some breeds feel more at home in cold winter weather, while others seek the warmth of their cozy homes. 

How cold a dog will feel when the temperature goes down depends on the type and color of its fur, how active they are, whether they are larger or smaller in size, as well as how skinny or fat they are. Meteorological conditions such as windchill, cloudiness, rainfall, or snowfall also impact on how cold it may feel.

Generally speaking, when the temperature goes below 45 degrees F, pups less tolerant of cold will show the first signs of discomfort. When they drop to 32 F or lower, puppies, sick, old, or small-breeds are at a higher risk of experiencing cold-related issues. Temperatures lower than 29F pose a severe threat to every dog’s health and wellbeing.

How cold is too cold for dogs to sleep outside?

The number of dogs living outside in gardens and backyards is considerably lower nowadays. Owing to the latest trends in lifestyle and dog owning, dogs are seen more as family members and live alongside their owners, enjoying the same home comforts..

If, however, your pet dog is used to living outdoors, providing it with the proper protection from the elements should be a priority. To stay warm and safe, a dog needs a properly-sized house – roomy enough for them to stand up and turn around. It should not be too large, as it will be much more difficult for him to warm up. 

The perfect  dog house will be adequately insulated, with a waterproof roof and a flap door. However, it should be noted that temperatures below 7 ° F are potentially life-threatening.

Can dogs freeze to death?

Sadly, the disturbing answer to this question is yes. There have been numerous reports of dogs freezing to death in sub-zero temperatures.

Stray dogs or  dogs treated in a neglectful way are at a higher risk of suffering the deadly consequences of harsh weather conditions. They are more likely to develop the symptoms of severe hypothermia, sometimes ending in tragic consequences.

Conclusion

Responsible dog ownership calls for constant and adequate care. To achieve this, a dedicated owner will keep a close eye on their pet and their individual needs at all times. In winter, they will pay even more attention to their beloved buddy and their general well-being.

Cold winters can be a pretty rough time for some pooches. Their level of tolerance to cold is rather low and they’d rather be basking in the sun than experiencing snow days.  Others, however, will have no qualms when it comes to dealing with chilly weather and will frolic in the snow with glee

Winter should not be taken for granted when your pet dog is concerned. By taking all the necessary measures, you can keep your furry friend happy, active, and healthy through the freezing winter days.

Knowing all this, you can turn this season into the most magical time of the year, with your content pup by your side.

References:

• [1] Brrrr… How cold is too cold for my pet to be outside? – vets4pets.com.au

• [2] Hypothermia in Dogs – petmd.com

• [3] Frostbite on Dogs – petmd.com

• [4] Antifreeze Poisoning – www.vetmed.wsu.edu

• [5] Arthritis in dogs – www.thekennelclub.org.uk

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