This month I’m going to focus on providing some cold weather protection tips for our dogs.
Over the next four weeks I’ll be looking at dog paw care, grooming, how to keep our dogs safe and warm whether they live inside or outside the house, tips on how to give our dogs a good work out despite the weather, dealing with frostbite and hypothermia and some specific winter hazards to watch out for.
Depending on where you live, winter can mean sub zero temperatures, reasonably mild humid conditions or anything in between these extremes – but wherever you are, you need to be aware of how colder weather can affect your dog’s health.
Some dogs are particularly sensitive to cold temperatures, including:
- puppies under six months of age;
- elderly and arthritic dogs who suffer because the cold can make their joints stiff and moving around becomes awkward and painful for them;
- dogs suffering from diabetes, heart disease, a hormone imbalance or kidney disease because they find it hard to regulate their body temperature;
- under weight dogs;
- dog breeds that have short hair; and
- dogs with short legs because when you’re out walking in the snow their chests and tummies are more likely to be in contact with the snow.
Cold dogs can suffer from hypothermia, and in extreme cases frostbite. Hypothermia occurs when your dog’s body temperature drops below it’s normal level of 101.5 – 102.5F, and depending on the severity, symptoms can range from shivering to decreased heart and breathing rate, lethargy and collapse. In severe cases hypothermia can prove fatal.
Dogs that are sensitive to the cold and dogs who have have been outside in the cold for too long are at an increased risk from hypothermia .
When you’re outside with your dog be aware for the signs that he is cold – these are whining, shivering, looking anxious, slower movements and generally looking around for somewhere to hide away from the weather. If your dog is showing any of these symptoms, make your way home as quickly and safely as you can. It would be a good idea to carry your dog if you can – your body heat will help to keep him warm.
And when outside with your dog don’t forget about the wind chill factor. If you’ve ever noticed that the windier it is the colder it feels then you’re experiencing what is known as the wind chill factor.
The wind carries away our body heat very quickly, and will do so even quicker when we are wet – this is what makes the temperature feel much colder than it actually is.
Being a smaller body mass than us, and more likely to be wet from wading through snow, our dogs will feel the cold more quickly than we will .
Here’s a quick example of how the wind chill factor works: if the actual temperature is 20F and there is a 20mph wind blowing, then it will feel like the temperature is minus 10F.
In the next article I’ll look at hypothermia and frostbite in more detail and talk about the symptoms, treatment and prevention.