How to Keep Your Dog Safe in Cold Weather
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You can tell when looking at them that some dogs are made for cold weather. Siberian huskies, Malamutes, and St. Bernards bark with glee, "Bring on the cold and snow!" Their coats are made with dense, warm hair that keeps them naturally insulated. But other breeds are likely shivering at the mere thought of going outside when the snow starts to swirl.
The cold isn't just uncomfortable for some dogs in winter. It can be downright dangerous. That's why as temperatures drop, it's important to take safety precautions for your dog.
How Much Time Should My Dog Spend Outside?
Overexposure to the cold is just as dangerous to dogs as it is to humans. Just because they have a winter fur coat does not mean that they are not susceptible to the same cold-weather sicknesses and injuries that can afflict humans. Spending too much time out in the cold can be hazardous to their health so it is important to limit their time outdoors during sub-freezing temperatures. This doesn't mean that your dog shouldn't spend time out in the snow and cold beyond potty breaks. In fact, watching a dog prance around in the snow can be one of the greatest joys for a dog parent. Throwing snowballs and watching your dog try and fetch them can help him get the exercise that he needs to keep the winter weight off, but as you start to get cold outside, he is probably also starting to feel the chill.
If you have an outdoor playpen or dog house for your dog that he uses during the summer months, make sure to bring him inside after brief periods outside. Never leave him outside overnight. If he is used to spending more time outdoors, then you can set up an area in the garage to help keep him warm. If he does spend any amount of time in his dog house make sure to leave him blankets or towels to snuggle up in, and change them out each day as they get cold. It is also probably a good idea to invest in some warming lamps to help keep the dog house's temperature regulated.
A wintery outdoors is nothing to shy away from for your dog, but just as you would with children, make sure they come inside after so long to prevent any health issues like those listed below.
How Can I Tell if My Dog is Too Cold?
The most obvious sign a dog is cold is shivering, the body's natural way to generate heat. Other common indications that your dog might be suffering from the cold include an unwillingness to go outside, slow and clumsy movements caused by cold joints and muscles, and less energy than normal.
Some dogs are less tolerant of the cold than others. Petcha explains that body fat, size, age, coat, and overall health affect your dog's tolerance of the cold. That's why tiny Chihuahuas and lean greyhounds, for example, aren't well-suited for a frigid blast.
What Do I Do If Hypothermia Sets In?
It's important to pay attention to whether your dog is cold. Despite their furry coats, dogs can suffer from life-threatening issues like hypothermia and frostbite if they're left in the cold for too long.
Common symptoms that indicate your dog might have hypothermia are intense shivering, listlessness, and frostbite. Frostbite on dogs most often occurs on exposed areas, such as the tail, tips of the ears, scrotum, and foot pads. You can tell if your dog has frostbite because the affected skin becomes very pale with a bluish/white hue that is due to a lack of blood flow, explains PetMD.
If your dog is suffering from hypothermia, it's important to act quickly to prevent serious illness or even death. PetMD advises taking these steps:
- Bring him inside
- Wrap him in blankets warmed in a dryer or on a radiator
- Call your veterinarian and get him in to see them. They will check him to ensure that there aren't any lasting effects or other problems like frostbite.
How Can I Keep My Dog Warm Outside?
If you have a dog with shorter hair, whether it's naturally short or it's styled that way, a sweater or jacket might give him some comfort in the cold, just like a coat does for you. Perhaps consider no-slip booties for your dog. Ice and snow can easily accumulate in your dog's pads, which may result in frostbite. When he comes inside, make sure to dry any accumulated snow from his body as it can sometimes mat within his fur. This will help him warm up more easily.
Dogs in winter don't have to be miserable. Keeping your dog comfortable in cold weather will make him excited to play with you in the winter wonderland. Now go fetch some snowballs!
Kara Murphy is a freelance writer in Erie, Pa. which is nearly always near the top of the list for snowfall totals in the United States. She has a goldendoodle named Maddie who loves to play in the snow.