Many dog owners don’t realize just how much the weather can affect their beloved canines. They can get heat exhaustion in summer, especially if they’re getting a lot of exercise. But the cold can hurt them as well – just in different ways. Here are some tips for protecting your pup from the cold, whether you’re at home or traveling.
Huskies, malamutes and akitas are naturally equipped to withstand extreme cold, but most dogs are not. Some, like greyhounds, have extremely short and thin coats that offer no protection at all, even in modestly cool weather. So just because your pup has fur doesn’t mean his coat will keep him toasty outdoors. (On the other hand, if your dog is a dark color, he can absorb more heat from the sun than light-colored dogs.)
PetMD recommends taking special precautions for all types of dogs if it’s 20o F or colder, and for “at risk” dogs if the temperature will be freezing or below.
Fat is not a “protective layer”
Like their owners, many dogs tend to be more sedentary in winter. That makes it easier to gain weight, and that’s no good. Even a pound or two can be a health concern for dogs, depending on their size. So watch your pup’s food intake, and don’t overdo the “comfort food” treats.
Make exercise a priority
Just because it’s tempting to stay inside where it’s warm and cozy doesn’t mean you should. Get out there and play fetch. See if your dog can catch a snowball. Take him for a hike despite the weather – many dogs love to join their humans for snowshoeing or cross-country skiing. In the snow, though, your dog’s bare feet can get painfully cold, so consider outfitting him with doggie booties. The boots provide better traction as well as warmth, but it often takes some practice before dogs will accept them.
If the weather is dreadfully wet, think up indoor fun. You can still play fetch, as long as you use a soft toy. Or teach your dog some new tricks. Give him puzzle toys and healthy chews to keep his mind occupied as well as his body.
Moisturize his feet
Whenever you outside in the cold, especially if you’re out in the rain or snow, immediately rinse your dog’s feet when you come back inside. This is critical if there is any chance he may have stepped in a de-icer of some kind, because these products are can be fatally toxic. You know your dog will lick his paws, so be sure they’re clean. Dry them, too.
Booties or not, your guy’s paws will get dry and cracked in winter. A soothing massage is in order, to protect his pads and make him more comfortable. You can make your own dog-pad balm or use coconut oil to rub into his paws. Trim the fur on his feet so it doesn’t extend below the pads. That will help avoid uncomfortable icy build-up.
Signs Your Dog Is Too Cold
Puppies, older dogs, and those with a chronic health condition are more susceptible to the cold because they are less able to regulate their internal temperature. Small dogs lose body heat faster than their heftier cousins because they have a higher skin-to-body-mass ratio. If you start to notice any of these symptoms, your guy is getting chilled. Time to get indoors and warm up!
- Shivering or shaking
- Cold ears
- Tucked-in tail and hunched posture, as if he’s trying to curl up to keep warm
- Limping or walking stiffly
- Lifting one or more paws off the ground
- Lethargy, or decreased energy
- Slow, shallow breathing
Keep a pet first aid kit handy
Regardless of season, you never know when your dog might get injured, so it’s essential to know what to do in an emergency. Buying or assembling a pet first aid kit is also smart. Take it along with you go hiking or other places with your dog where you won’t be near medical attention. It could save his life.