How to Care for your Dog During the Winter Months
Just like us humans, dogs begin to feel the pinch when the weather starts to cool down, even when they have thick furry coats to rely on. As winter approaches, it’s essential to take extra precautions to make sure your dog is safe when they’re outdoors in the rain, snow or icy winds.
How to Know When your Dog is Cold
According to the Pedigree Foundation, if outdoor temperatures are 45°F (~7.2°C) or more then your dog will not need any additional layers, however, smaller dogs, older dogs, and short-haired breeds are likely to start feeling the cold when temperatures are 35°F (~1.7°C) or lower.
Your dog’s sensitivity to the cold will largely depend on their breed and fur-type, however, you shouldn’t rely on the thickness of your dog’s coat to determine whether it will survive the winter chill. Some tell-tale signs that you can look out for include:
- Trembling or shaking
- Curling up into a ball
- Cold ears or body
- Whimpering or whining
- Slow or lethargic movements
If your dog is showing any of these signs, it’s important to take them indoors as soon as possible so that they can warm up. Most dogs can survive outdoors in cold environments for short periods, however, it’s best to wrap them up in a dog coat or fleece if your dog is more susceptible to chills.
How to Keep Your Dog Warm Outdoors
A dog’s normal body temperature should fall within the range of 100.5°F (~38°C) to 102°F (~38.9°C), which is why it’s essential to wrap your dog up if you’re taking them outdoors in icy weather. If their temperature gets lower than this, they’re at risk of contracting hypothermia, which can cause significant health problems.
Dog Coats and Fleeces
A dog coat is a practical and stylish way to keep your pet warm when they’re outside. They come in a range of styles and sizes so that you can find the ideal solution for your dog. Get your dog suited up before they get outside in the cold so that the coat can lock the heat inside.
Avoid Ponds and Streams
If your dog is known for running into local streams and ponds, it’s important to keep them on a lead when it’s cold outside so that they stay away from water. Your dog will feel colder when it’s wet due to evaporation, therefore, it’s best to keep your dog dry and safe when it’s chilly outside.
Insulate Your Dog House
There are extra precautions that you should take if you have a dog that likes to spend time in their doghouse.
- Repair any damage or holes so no wind, ice or rain can get inside
- Make sure all flat surfaces (including the roof) are insulated with styrofoam, polystyrene or any other good insulator
- Line the floor with clean, parasite-free straw
- Install a door flap
- Regularly clean your dog house with a strong, animal-safe disinfectant
Recent reports from PETA state that 29 dogs and other animal companions have died due to causes relating to cold weather since November 2018. So, if in doubt, don’t leave your dog out.
Dog Healthcare in Icy Weather
Dogs require constant care and attention all year round, however, you’ll have to tailor your care throughout the seasons to ensure your dog stays healthy in the heat, as well as in the cold.
Clean Your Dog’s Paws After Every Walk
Your dog is more likely to encounter salt, grit, ice and harmful chemicals during your winter walks, so you must keep their paws clean and dry to avoid any complications.
Using a medicated dog shampoo can help to get rid of the nasty chemicals your dog might tread, whilst keeping paws and fur healthy at the same time. However, warm water and a cloth is also an effective method for cleaning your dog’s paws if you’re tight for time.
Moisturize Your Dog’s Paws
Moisturizing your dog’s paws creates a barrier between their skin and any potentially harmful irritants. This is essential in cold weather as the low temperatures make dogs more prone to dry and cracked paws.
Be Mindful Of How Much Your Dog Eats
Research suggests that some dogs require more calories if they’re regularly exposed to cold weather, however, this rule should not be applied to all dogs. Most dog-owners walk their dog less frequently in cold weather, which leaves them pets at risk of gaining too much weight during winter.
As a general rule, it’s best to feed your dog in accordance with its Body Condition Score (PDF.) If you see that your dog is beginning to plump up over the winter, reduce their feedings by 10% until they return to a healthy weight.
Guest Author, The Animal Health Company
The Animal Health Company provides a leading range of health and hygiene products for dogs, cats, horses and more. Their outstanding research and contributions to the world of animal healthcare has enabled them to produce products that improve the well-being of animals for over 20 years.