Colder temperatures are descending upon us, and even if winter hasn’t yet arrived where you live, it’s important to plan ahead. Dogs can suffer from cold just as we do. Those with double coats (an outer layer of longer water-repellent fur with a deeper layer of dense undercoat) might be more comfortable in the cold depending on the the breed, but even they should be monitored closely. Single-coated dogs, smaller dogs, and older dogs are at particularly high risk for problems associated with cold temperatures.
Tips to protect your dog
- If your dog hasn’t had a wellness exam within the past year, now might be a good time, since certain conditions such as arthritis can be aggravated by cold temperatures.
- Consider the age of your pet. Both very young and senior dogs will have a more difficult time regulating their temperatures, and senior dogs are also more likely to have medical conditions such as diabetes, Cushings disease and arthritis that will put them at risk for cold intolerance.
- Dogs with single layer, short coats and those with less body fat will be very susceptible to cold temperatures. Smaller dogs will also have a more difficult time staying warm, and therefore a small, thin, short-haired dog such as a chihuahua will be particularly at risk.
- Be aware of the symptoms of hypothermia: shivering, lethargy, grey or pale gums, stiff muscles, and lack of coordination such as stumbling.
- Walk your dog during the warmest part of the day.
- Bring your pets inside in below-freezing temperatures–even cold-tolerant northern breeds. Dogs can get frostbite and hypothermia just like people. If your dog LOVES being outside as did Vera (our special-needs German shepherd in the featured photo above), check on your dog frequently when temperatures dip below freezing. We would set the alarm and make Vera come inside every ten minutes to warm up.
- Offer raised beds off the floor for single coated, thin, and older pets. The temperature on the floor is always a few degrees colder than at couch level. Also, offer these dogs blankets when the temperature in the house dips below 60-65 degrees.
- Clip the fur between your dogs’ pads to prevent snow and ice buildup between their toes. Wiping your dog’s paws after walks will help to remove chemicals from his paws. Using a product such as Musher’s Secret can prevent snowballs from forming between his toes, and also protect his pads from deicers used on streets and sidewalks. Another option is to put boots on your dog when you take him for walks. Ruffwear and Chewy have several options.
- Your dog is unlikely to enjoy his boots the first time you put them on. To get him used to them: Let him sniff one of the boots and put a treat on it. Praise him for his interest in it. Next, put one boot on one of his paws, encourage him to walk a few paces, praise and treat him, then remove it. Repeat. Over the next several days, increase the number of boots you put on him and the length of time you keep them on. Make sessions fun. Take him for short walks or play his favorite games. Always be upbeat and positive.
- Check your dog’s pads regularly for fissuring and splitting.
- Consider getting a warm coat for your dog, particularly short-coated, small, and older dogs. Again, Chewy and Ruffwear have some good options.
- Keep your dog away from ice on rivers, lakes, and ponds. In Bellingham, we had a disaster a couple of years ago where one of two dogs and their owner drowned in a pond when playing fetch. The ice was thinner than the owner anticipated, and the dogs broke through. The owner drowned trying to save them.
- Your dog might need more food in the winter to maintain a healthy weight. Weighing your dog regularly will help you monitor the amount of food he needs.
- Remember, always keep your dog safe.