Does your dog like the cold? Some breeds, such as Golden Retrievers and German Shepherds, enjoy chillier temperatures when they can run around without feeling overheated in their thick coats. Others, like Dachshunds and Beagles, tend to shy away from the cold, but can still be persuaded to get in a quick romp outside, especially with the right protection. It can be as simple as getting a pair of dog boots, or buying a couple of dog sweaters.
Read on for cold weather dog tips that can help you and your pup enjoy the cold weather safely.
How cold is too cold?
Your dog’s ability to tolerate the cold can depend on a number of things, including breed, age, size, and health. For instance, larger breeds with thicker coats and protective undercoats, such as Akitas and Huskies, are naturally better equipped to handle low temperatures. Smaller, shorthaired breeds, like Boston Terriers or Chihuahuas, are more likely to shiver and shake at the first sign of a chill.
Senior dogs and young puppies can also be more sensitive to the cold. If your dog is older or has any health problems, talk with your veterinarian about when it’s safe to take your four-legged friend outside in the winter. One good rule of thumb is that if it’s too cold for you, it’s probably too cold for your dog.
Watch the time
Even if your dog loves running around in the cold, you should avoid letting your pooch spend long hours outside when temperatures are low. Like people, dogs can suffer from frostbite, which can be a serious health issue that may not become apparent until it’s already set in. Signs of frostbite in dogs can include:
- Extreme coldness and pain when you touch the affected area
- Discoloration—blue, gray, or pale skin
- Blisters or blackened skin
Your dog’s extremities, including the paws, ears, and tail, are more at risk for getting frostbite. That’s because the body constricts blood vessels in those parts to divert blood and warmth to the core where it can protect internal organs. This is why it is important to put that pair of dog shoes on your pooch even if there isn’t snow on the ground.
If you suspect frostbite, move your dog to a warm place and contact your veterinarian immediately. Don’t try to rub or massage the frostbitten area. You can wrap your dog in a towel or blanket heated quickly in the dryer for added warmth. Injuries from frostbite can be covered by a dog insurance plan from ASPCA Pet Health Insurance (learn about dog insurance).
Dress for warmth
Dog coats for winter? Absolutely! Smaller dogs and short-haired breeds, in particular, may need a coat or sweater to help them stay warm. Even larger dogs with thicker coats can benefit from an added layer, such as a dog vest, especially in very chilly or windy air.
Speaking of coats, you should avoid trimming your dog’s coat very short during the winter. While a shorter hairdo is usually fine in the summer time, longer fur can help keep your dog warm and protected in the cold weather.
It may be difficult at first to get your dog comfortable with wearing these layers. If you have a new puppy and know a cold winter is on its way, it is best to start training your dogs to wear clothes early on. If your dog is older, it may take more time and positive reinforcement to get them to an agreeable state for apparel. Don’t push your pooch too hard at first, there will be some pushback. For an anxious dog try taking a step back and reward them for going up to the dog clothes for a simple sniff. This basic step will help you on your way to getting your dog comfortable and will serve as a building block for eventually putting the clothes on their body.
Offer a healthy diet
A nutritious diet can help keep your dog’s natural coat in top shape. You may also want to feed your dog a little more than usual since he or she might be burning more calories to stay warm. Ask your veterinarian if you should make any changes to your dog’s diet during the winter.
In addition to a healthy diet, you should make sure your dog is well hydrated. This can help prevent your dog’s skin from getting dry, itchy, or irritated. Keep a bowl of water available for your dog at all times, and bring plenty of fresh water along if you go out for a walk or hike. Maybe even consider buying a dog hydration pack! There may be plenty of snow on the ground, but eating snow (even if it’s not yellow!) is not a safe way for dogs to quench their thirst.
Use a leash in the snow
Dogs can lose their bearings in the snow, especially in a storm, and get lost or hurt. It’s best to keep your dog on a leash, but if you let your dog run around in a safe area without a leash, you should still have one with you. You never know when snow might start falling unexpectedly. Also, be sure your dog is wearing a collar and updated ID tag in case you get separated.
You may also want to consider microchipping your dog. A dog microchip can play an invaluable role in getting a lost dog returned home safely. If your dog already has a microchip, double-check that the registry has your current contact information.
Put on dog boots for winter
Dog boots can help protect your dog from injuries, for instance, by providing added traction that can prevent slips and falls. They also stop snow, ice, melting salt, and other debris from building up between your dog’s paw pads, which can cause painful cuts and sores.
Not all dogs like wearing dog boots for winter. If your dog isn’t into boots, first make sure they’re the correct size. If they’re too tight or too loose, they may be uncomfortable to wear and can come off while your dog is outside.
If your dog absolutely refuses to don those dog boots, you can try coating his or her paws with petroleum jelly or specially made paw wax. These substances provide a protective layer between soft paws and rough winter surfaces.
Towel off when coming inside
When your dog is ready to come back in the house, use an old towel to brush off any snow, ice, melting salt, or dirt that might be clinging to your dog’s coat. This way, your dog can’t lick it off and ingest something that might be harmful. Not everyone uses pet-safe ice melt!
Set up a warm place to rest
Remember that the floor can be chilly and breezy during the winter. Give your dog a cozy pet bed or warm blanket and pillow to curl up with and relax. Heated dog beds are a great way to give you dog the royal treatment.
Consider a dog insurance plan
Even with all the right protective gear, your dog can still get hurt unexpectedly during the cold weather months. A dog insurance plan can help you manage the costs of unexpected accidents and winter colds too! See what you need to know before you buy.