Winter Dog Tips

winter-dog

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.

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Comments

  1. This is a very good article… I did a similar post on Jeffers Pet Blog but not as in depth. Just some tips and suggestions. Will keep watching yours and hopefully learn something.

  2. Thanks Ron, I’m glad you enjoyed the article.

  3. My 6 mos old BT displays some odd symptoms – within seconds……. her legs act as though they go numb/lame and she cannot walk. She is getting over a bout with d mange, and her hair is still quite thin….. What can I do to enable her to be able to take a potty break without falling over??

    Great article BTW!!

  4. Thanks for your message Cori.
    Your poor puppy, she must be really feeling the cold – I expect her skin is so sensitive to the cold weather.
    The only thing I can suggest is to make sure her legs are really warm before you go out, and to keep them that way try putting wool socks on her. You could add some padding under her paws as that’s where her body heat will escape first. You’ll need to tie the socks up with something to stop them falling down (or loop elastic over the top). She’ll probably find it strange to walk in them, but it’s worth a go, and cheaper than buying booties. Try keeping her tummy warm as well – you could put a tshirt on her.
    An alternative is to carry her out wrapped in a blanket and just put her down to do her business.
    Good luck!

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