Winter is upon us, which means it’s time to prep your dog for the cold weather. It turns out your furry friends aren’t as equipped for freezing temperatures as you may think. So, help your dog stay warm and cozy this winter with these winter weather safety tips!
Your Dog’s Fur Isn’t Fool-Proof
Some people believe their dog is cold weather-proof simply because of their fur. Yes, some breeds like Huskies and Alaskan Malamutes do have layered winter coats that help them brave the cold, but not all dogs are so fortunate. Short-haired dogs and those with shorter legs that put them closer to the snow-covered ground are at high risk for hypothermia and frostbite when temperatures drop. We recommend bundling them up in appropriate winter gear – booties, coats, etc. – before you take them outside in the cold.
Side note: the older your dog is, the harder it is for them to regulate their body temperature. So keep an eye on your senior companions as they are more likely to react negatively to a cold change in temperature.
The moral of the story is: if you couldn’t imagine staying outside when the temperature drops below freezing, why should your dog? Dogs aren’t as cold-resistant as you may think. Like we said, their fur isn’t winter weather fool-proof. Even breeds known for living in wintry climates should be kept inside when it gets cold out. You don’t want your dog to be outside for long periods of time in below-freezing conditions.
If your dog lives outside – and inside isn’t an option – the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) recommends you condition your dog to the cold first before you let them stay outside overnight and for long periods of time. You should provide your dog with a warm shelter to shield them from the wind that has thick bedding inside; you don’t want them to have direct contact with the cold ground. Check their water regularly to make sure it’s not frozen. Don’t use space heaters, heat lamps, or heated blankets because they pose a burn or fire risk.
Protect Your Dog’s Paws
There’s a reason why you see sled dogs running in the Iditarod wearing booties – the cold from ice and snow can do some serious damage. They can pack between your dog’s toes, cause their pads to crack, or cut them open.
You can trim the hair between your pooch’s toes to avoid uncomfortable ice balls from forming. Your dog can wear booties to protect their feet – unless you’re not feeling it and your dog can’t stand wearing them. In that case, try to keep a close eye on them on your walks, removing snow build-up as it happens. If you can, shovel a section of your yard for them to go potty; this should help spare their feet from the cold snow.
Also, with winter weather, comes the use of deicers like antifreeze and rock salt. These make it safe for people to navigate the streets and sidewalks in the winter, but it’s no good for your canine companion. Antifreeze is toxic to dogs, so you don’t want them licking it off their paws after a walk. Salt can also do damage to your dog’s paw pads. Thoroughly wipe down their paws and their underbelly – anywhere that you think could pick up stuff off the ground – after each winter outing.
How To See the Signs: Hypothermia and Frostbite
If you’re not sure if your dog has hypothermia or frostbite from winter weather exposure, WebMD has a list of signs to look out for. Here are some symptoms your dog may experience if they’re suffering from hypothermia:
- Violent shivering
- Weakening pulse
- Acting lethargic
- Muscle stiffness
- Difficulty breathing
- Low appetite or lack thereof
- Cardiac arrest
Dogs commonly get frostbite on their tails, ears, and footpads. If you believe your dog may have frostbite, here is what to look for:
- Pale, gray, or blue skin initially
- Red, puffy skin later on
- Experience pain when ears, tail, or paws are touched
- Skin remains cold
- Skin starts to shrivel up
If you think your dog has hypothermia or frostbite, you should contact your veterinarian immediately. On your own, you can try increasing their body temperature by setting them up in a warm room, wrapping them in a blanket, and applying warm (not hot) water to their frostbitten area. Don’t use hair dryers or heated blankets – these will do more harm than good, causing burns and potentially cutting off blood circulation.
Need Help Training Your Dog This Winter?
Is one of your New Year’s resolutions to fix your dog’s behavior? Whether it’s pulling on the leash or acting anxious around other dogs, Sit Means Sit in Cleveland, OH is here to help! We can provide you with the right combination of puppy classes, private lessons, Board & Train Immersion programs, Day Training, and group distraction classes, customized to meet your particular needs. Give us a call at (440) 703-6271 or contact us using our website to join in on one of our classes today!