Learn how to keep your dogs warm and safe this winter.
Many people have the misconception that dogs can tolerate cold weather because they have a fur coat. However, a number of factors determine how your pooch handles the cold including breed, coat density, overall health, age, and nutritional status. While breeds with a thick undercoat such as the northern breeds tolerate cold temperatures better, most dogs feel cold just as humans do during the winter months. As a pet owner, it’s your job to keep your pup warm and safe when the weather is cold.
The Dangers of Cold Weather
When winter winds blow with snow and ice, they increase the risk of illness and injury. Exposure to cold temperatures can cause hyperthermia and frostbite. The paws, ear tips, and the end of the tail are most susceptible to cold injuries. While all dogs need extra care in the winter, senior dogs, dogs with illnesses, puppies, and pregnant dogs tend to be the most vulnerable.
Below are some measures you can take to keep your dog warm and safe in winter weather.
Understand your dog
To know the best practices for keeping your pup warm in the winter, it’s important that you understand the dog’s susceptibility to the cold. Some breeds such as Siberian Huskies and Alaskan Malamutes are well adapted to cold temperatures and hence won’t need so much extra care. On the other hand, some breeds such as Dobermans, Greyhounds, and low-hair dogs are more prone to cold conditions than others, and therefore, will require extra care.
Limit outdoor time
Some dogs just love to play outdoors. However, you need to limit their time outdoors during the winter. Not even a Chow Chows can stay outside in the winter for lengthy periods. Their ears, nose, and paws are usually exposed, and this can cause injuries. Ideally, don’t let your dog spend more than 30 minutes outside at a time. Go out frequently during the warmest times of the day when the sun is up.
Dress your dog warmly
Dog clothing can help keep your pooch warm and is especially good for small dogs, those with short hair, and old or sick dogs. A dog jacket or sweater that covers them from tail to tummy would be perfect. Always ensure that the clothing is dry before use, and remove the clothing when your dog is inside. Also, make sure that it is not too tight around the armpits, neck, and groin. If your pooch isn’t used to wearing clothes, try to prep him for wearing jackets well ahead of time. A winter dog jacket or sweater that covers them from tail to tummy would be perfect.
Bedding is an important aspect of ensuring your dog stays warm through winter. Don’t let your dog sleep on a cold floor. Instead, use raised beds to keep him off cold concrete or tiles. Ensure his bed has enough covers or blankets to keep him warm. To ensure maximum heat retention, place the blankets in a doughnut shape around them. This will help to hold in warmth, enabling your dog to maintain his body temperature while sleeping. Alternatively, you can also use heated pet beds.
Feed your dog well
Just like humans, it’s important for your dog to eat well and regularly during colder months to keep up energy and warmth. A high-quality diet based on whole foods and raw meat will help ensure a good coat and high energy levels to beat the cold. However, do not increase the food amounts over winter because doing so will make the dog overweight. Instead, monitor your dog’s activity level and adjust his calories accordingly. Also, ensure access to clean water, and if possible, warm water.
Take care of the paws
You need to take care of your dog’s paws, as they can pick up salt, ice, snow, and toxic chemicals such as antifreeze in the winter. Therefore, wipe his paws with a towel every time he comes back to the house. Also, trim the hair between his toes to prevent ice build-up. Another option would be to use booties to protect paws when walking on snow. Booties keep the paws warm and free from ice, salt, and chemicals. However, you’ll need to introduce him to them gradually and positively.
Bathe your dog indoors
During the colder months, it’s important to change your dog’s bath patterns because dogs take longer to dry off in cold weather. Therefore, bathe your dog indoors, giving shorter and fewer baths with warms water. Also, ensure you dry him as quickly as possible, and don’t let him out until he is completely dry.
Groom your dog appropriately
You should always keep your dog groomed, but you have to avoid shaving or trimming your dog’s hair in this period because the hair coat is his source of warmth. However, it’s important to maintain a good grooming regime. Brush the coat and comb out the knots regularly.
Provide appropriate shelter
It’s better for your dog to remain indoors throughout winter to ensure he doesn’t get cold. If you have an outside dog, make sure that you provide a good shelter and bedding inside the shelter. The kennel should be raised at least four inches above the ground and have a sloped roof, adequate insulation, and enough heating.
Avoid exposure to toxins
Toxic items such as anti-freeze and rat bait are very common during the winter months. Anti-freeze, particularly, tastes sweet and dogs will lick it when they come across it. Unfortunately, anti-freeze is very toxic, and it only takes four teaspoons to kill a dog. Therefore, keep all the toxic substances away from dogs and other pets. Also, ensure you clean up any spills because even small amounts can be dangerous.
Know the warning signs
Dogs are more susceptible to frostbite and hypothermia during the winter months. Therefore, be on the lookout for the following symptoms:
- Dog shivering
- Ice on the dog’s body
- The dog seems weak and sluggish
- Ear and tail tips feel cold or appear red, white or grey
If you notice these signs, wrap the dog in blankets and call the vet.
Don’t leave your dog in the car
We all know that it’s not good to leave your pup alone in the car when the weather is hot. The same applies to cold weather. Cars cool very fast in the winter and can cause your pet to be really uncomfortable. Therefore, it’s advisable to leave your pup at home when you go running errands.