Cold Weather and Your Dog: How to Protect them during Winter months

Even with their warm and fuzzy fur coat and their naturally tough paw pads, your pooch is still vulnerable when those cold, winter days and nights set in. 

Most dogs can tolerate more frigid temperatures to a point. However, they do need us to pay attention to signs that they are uncomfortable or suffering from debilitating ailments such as hypothermia.  Thankfully, they exhibit similar symptoms to the cold as humans do.  They tend to seek warmth by heaters or in blankets, shiver, and show tendencies of being lethargic.  Here are some things you can look for to ensure that your pup is warm and healthy during the coldest time of the year.


Keeping Your Dog Warm and Dry

The simplest way to keep your pooch happy is to make sure that they are warm and dry.  Even if your dog is outside the majority of the time during the summer months, bring them indoors in the winter. You can introduce your dog gradually to lower temperatures to help them acclimate to colder temperatures in a healthy way rather than expose them to extreme temperatures for extended periods of time.  A good rule to keep in mind is that if it’s too cold for you, it’s too cold for your dog.   


Huskies, German Shepherds, Chows Like The Colder Weather

Granted, some breeds are more naturally resilient or adapt better to cold environments such as German Shepherds, Huskies, or any other breeds with large, thick coats.  However, dogs with thinner coats such as Greyhounds, Chihuahuas, or Pugs can benefit from some extra protection from the cold.  Cozy dog sweaters or jackets and little booties can help keep your puppy nice and warm through the chillier days.  Give your pet a nice rub down with a warm towel after a walk or run in the snow.  Their coat will be damp which can make them cold.  It would be similar to walking around the cold with a wet sweater. It’s not a comfortable feeling.  Keep an eye out for hazards on your walks such as ice and snow.  Avoid slippery areas such as frozen lakes or ponds as the ice may be too thin and can give way.


Is Your Dog House Facing South?

Another great way to help your dog is to ensure they have shelter when they need to be outside.  Doghouses that are well-insulated and not drafty are a great option.  If you position the doghouse with the opening facing south, it helps to prevent winds from entering the doghouse and provides better shelter from the elements.  Line the doghouse with straw or hay instead of blankets or towels.  Blankets can get damp and freeze which does the opposite of what you intend.  Straw or hay don’t freeze the same way and maintain a level of dryness that is more effective.


Keep Antifreeze and Rock Salt Out of the Dogs Reach

Many people don’t think of other potential dangers in the winter.  Rock salt and antifreeze make it easier for us to get around during the harshest winter weather and both can be very poisonous to dogs.  Antifreeze smells good to animals and tastes very sweet as it is very toxic and can be lethal to dogs in even small amounts.  Be proactive and limit your dog’s exposure.  Clean up antifreeze puddles in your garage or driveway and if you think your dog may have ingested antifreeze, take them to the vet immediately.   

Rock salt can also make your pooch very ill or cause discomfort and irritation.  To keep irritation to a minimum, check your dog’s paws for pieces of salt that wedge between their toes and make sure their paw pads aren’t chapped.  Give them a good rub down and rinse off after walks while paying specific attention to the feet and belly.  Keep the fur between your dog’s toes trim and neat to prevent rock salt from getting stuck.  Certain brands of salt are marked “pet safe” and can be found at your local pet store, or boots can offer protection and extra cushion.


Even In Freezing Temperatures Dogs Can Become Dehydrated

With freezing temperatures come ice. Make sure that their water bowl isn’t frozen over.  Dehydration is just as common in the winter as it is the summer.  Snow is not a substitute for drinking water.  Your canine friend can expend more energy in the winter to try to keep warm or less than normal if they aren’t active and primarily stay inside.  Adjust food levels accordingly to keep your furry friend healthy. 


Ticks and Fleas Can Survive Cold Weather

Surprisingly, ticks and fleas can survive in cold weather.  They tend to seek warmer areas to live such as your home or take refuge in wild animals like raccoons, squirrels or other wildlife. This means that they can still hitch a ride on your dog without you thinking of it.  Many vets recommend year-round prevention for fleas, ticks, and heartworms.



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